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Author  of  "  Dog- Watch  Yarns  ;"   "  Tales  of  a  Tar 

ANDREW    CARNEGIE,    ll.d. 

OSWALD    CROMPTON,    a.r.c.a. 







I  do  not  see  how  you  can  have  a  better 
preface  to  the  forthcoming  volume  than  the 
words  I  used  concerning  Mr.  Watts  when  I 
was  in  Sunderland  last  year.  They  came  from 
the  heart,  and  they  go  to  the  heart  as  I  re-read 
them  to-day  : — 

"  I  have  to-day  been  introduced  to  a  man  who 

has,  1  think,  the  most  ideal  character  of  any  man 

living  on   the  face   of  the    earth.      I   have   shaken 

hands  with  a  man  who  has  saved  thirty-six  lives. 

Among  the   distinguished    men   whose   names   the 

Mayor    has    recited,    you    should    never    let    the 

memory   of  this   Sunderland  man  die.     Compared 

with   his  acts,    military  glory  sinks   into   nothing. 

The  hero  who  kills  men  is  the  hero  of  barbarism  ; 

the    hero    of    civilisation    saves    the    lives    of    his 



New  York,  Nov.  22nd,  1910. 




On  October  3rd,  1910,  the  Mayor  (Coun.  Arthur  F. 
Young-)  convened  a  meeting-  of  a  few  gentlemen  in  the 
Mayor's  Parlour,  for  the  purpose  of  considering-  a  pro- 
posal to  place  on  permanent  record  the  life  and  work 
of  Mr.  Henry  Watts,  then  in  his  85th  year. 

The  meeting  unanimously  decided  that  a  "Life"  of 
Mr.  Watts  should  be  written,  and  I  was  honoured  with 
the  commission  to  do  the  work. 

When,  on  Oct.  10th,  1910,  the  materials  then  avail- 
able for  the  work  were  handed  to  me,  they  were  so  few, 
so  confused,  and,  for  the  most  part,  so  contradictory, 
that  the  task  seemed  at  first  sight  almost  hopeless.  But 
as  the  work  progressed  these  things  faded  into  compara- 
tive insignificance  before  the  personality  of  the  man  they 
concerned,  a  personality  which  so  impressed  me,  that 
what  was  begun  in  doubt  was  continued  with  enthusiasm, 
and  has  ended,  I  hope,  with  some  measure  of  success. 

Apart  altogether  from  my  personal  interest  in  the 
work,  I  have  felt,  the  more  familiar  I  became  with  the 
details  of  Mr.  Watts's  career,  that  his  was  a  biography 
that  ought  to  be  written.  Heroes  of  the  type  of  Harry 
Watts  are  not  so  plentiful  that  we  can  afford  to  allow 
them  to  pass  away  without  some  attempt  to  record  what 
they  have  done.      But  great  men  are  like  great    moun- 


tains  in  that,  to  judge  them  truly,  we  must  view  them 
from  a  distance.  We  are  too  near  to  Harry  Watts 
to  estimate  his  worth  fully  ;  but  it  is  most  certain  that 
had  nothing  now  been  done  to  perpetuate  his  memory, 
we  should  have  realised  our  mistake  in  after  years  when 
too  late  to  rectify  it.  Therefore  I  pay  a  tribute  of 
admiration  to  the  promoters  of  the  book,  because  of 
their  perspicuity  in  recognising  the  necessity  for  such  a 
work,  and  their  enterprise  in  carrying  it  through  while 
it  was  yet  possible  to  do  so. 

With  regard  to  the  method  adopted  of  presenting  the 
various  phases  of  Mr.  Watts's  life,  it  seemed  to  me,  as 
explained  in  the  text,  that  a  list  of  life-saving  feats  in 
chronological  order,  would  not  only  make  monotonous 
reading,  but  would  certainly  not  give,  what  I  have 
striven  to  give,  a  picture  of  Mr.  Watts  as  he  was  and 
as  he  is,  and  the  conditioning  circumstances  of  his  life. 
Therefore  the  particular  events  belonging  to  each  period 
of  his  life  are  placed  together  as  far  as  possible,  and  as 
there  is  a  full  index,  the  reader  can  turn  to  any  incident 
in  a  moment. 

One  other  word  of  explanation  is  necessary.  In 
writing  the  details  of  his  early  life  and  of  the  time 
before  his  conversion,  I  have  but  carried  out  Mr.  Watts's 
wishes,  which  may  be  summed  up  in  Cromwell's  remark 
to  Lely,  the  painter,  l*  Paint  me  as  I  am.  If  you  leave 
out  the  scars  and  wrinkles,  I  will  not  pay  you  a  shilling." 

It  is  also  my  hope  that  the  book  may  be  of  value 
as  a  work  of  reference  in  connection  with  some  of  the 
matters  dealt  with — Sunderland  as  it  was  in  the  early 


part  of  the  last  century  ;  shipping  matters  at  this  port  in 
the  middle  of  that  century  ;  the  work  of  the  Life-boat 
and  Rocket  Brigade,  &c.  Every  effort  has  been  made 
to  secure  trustworthy  information  on  these  matters,  the 
original  documents  being  consulted  wherever  possible. 

I  tender  my  sincere  thanks  to  the  following  gentle- 
men : — Mr.  C.  H.  Dodds,  General  Manager  for  the 
River  Wear  Commissioners,  for  much  useful  informa- 
tion ;  Mr.  W.  J.  Oliver,  the  local  Hon.  Sec.  of  the 
Life-boat  and  Rocket  Institutions,  for  the  loan  of 
old  documents;  Messrs.  Siebe,  Gorman,  &  Co.,  Ltd., 
for  permission  to  quote  from  their  book,  A  Diving 
Manual ;  to  Sir  J.  C.  Lamb,  the  author  of  The  Life- 
boat and  its  work,  for  permission  to  use  some  of  the 
information  contained  therein  ;  to  Messrs.  Hills  &  Co., 
for  their  valuable  assistance  while  the  book  was  going 
through  the  press  ;  and  most  of  all  are  my  thanks  due 
to  our  Chief  Librarian,  Mr.  J.  A.  Charlton  Deas,  for 
his  patience  under  the  affliction  of  my  persistent  in- 
quiries, his  perseverance  in  "  digging  out  "  facts 
required,  and  his  many  helpful  suggestions. 

Sunderland,  Dec,  igio. 









AN    EARLY    MARRIAGE  -  -  -  -  - 

BACK   TO    THE    SEA        - 


VIII.  AN    INTERLUDE     ------ 


X.  HENRY    WATTS    AS    A    DIVER  -  -  - 



XIII.  A    HEARTLESS    ROBBERY  -  -  -  - 


XV.  A    NOVEL    USE    FOR    A    DIVER  -  -  - 














1 06- 1 19 











LIST    OF    PERSONS    SAVED    BY    HENRY    WATTS  -  260-263 

MR.    WATTS'S   RELATIVES    WHO    WERE    DROWNED    -  263-264 
MR.    HENRY   WATTS's    MEDALS        -  264-265 

LIST   OF   CERTIFICATES  -----  266 



A    NIGHT    SCENE    IN    SILVER    STREET     -  -  -  -       22 

4<YE     HARRY    watts!     FOR     TWO     PINS     aw'd     SPLIT 

thee  skull  wl'  this  shool  !"    -        -        -        -    58 

"silence,    gentlemen,    silence!     order    for    a 
song" 90 

"one    day    i    came    upon    the    engine    of    the 
train" 166 

"when  aw  got   ontiv  its   back  aw  fund   mesel 
in  a  fix"    --------  216 

harry  watts  settled  the  difficulty  by  dashing 
into  the  sea 248 


Slowly  the  ?narble  rises  to  the  brave, 
For  Crawford  lies  unhonoured  in  his  grave  /* 
Yet  Henry  Watts  is  with  us,  whose  high  claim 
Is  not  of  slaughtered  foemen  put  to  shame. 
But  a  life  risked  his  countrymen  to  save. 

This  modest  hero  on  his  bosom  wears 
Trophies,  unbought  with  men  or  women's  tears, 
Of  deeds  heroic,  which  old  Greece  or  Rome 
Had,  sure,  immortalised  in  some  proud  dome, 
And  poets  praised  through  all  the  coming  years. 

But  though  no  bard,  inspired,  his  exploits  sing, 
Yet  shall  my  Muse  her  humble  tribute  bring 

To  true  Nobility's  untitled  son, 

Who  from  his  grateful  townsmen  oft  hath  won 
Honours  that  shall  no  late  repentance  bring. 

Let  others  boast  their  heaps  of  gory  slain  ; 

Thine  be  the  happier  recompense  to  gain 
Triumphs  that  fill  with  holy  joy  the  breast, 
Patient  with  Heaven's  approving  smile  to  rest 

Secure,  immortal  honours  to  attain. 

F.  T. 

*  The  grave  of  Jack  Crawford,  the  hero  of  Camperdown,  in 
Sunderland  Parish  Churchyard,  remained  unmarked  for  fifty-seven 
years,  but  in  1888  a  handsome  tombstone  was  erected  there  by 
public  subscription  ;  and  in  1890  the  monument  to  him  in  Mowbray 
Park  was  unveiled.     It  is  obvious,  therefore,  that  the  above  lines, 


copied  from  Harry's  Journal,  were  written  before  1888.  The 
poem  is  one  of  several  written  by  admirers  of  Henry  Watts  and 
preserved  by  him  in  the  Journal  to  which  reference  is  made  in  the 
following  pages.  It  will  be  seen  that  in  conception  and  power  of 
expression  the  poem  is  considerably  above  the  average  ;  and  it  is 
reproduced  here  because  it  reflects  the  deep  appreciation  which, 
for  many  years,  Sunderland  people  have  had  for  Mr.  Watts's 
services  to  humanity. 

Just  when  these  pages  were  going  to  press  Mr.  James  Patterson, 
having  read  the  above  verses,  suggested  that  they  were  the  work 
of  the  late  Mr.  Frederic  Taylor.  Mrs.  Patterson  kindly  undertook 
to  make  inquiries,  and  sent  a  copy  of  the  poem  to  her  friend, 
Mrs.  Taylor,  at  Boscombe.  In  her  reply,  Mrs.  Taylor  says  : — 
11  I  feel  perfectly  certain  that  Frederic  was  the  author  of  the 
poem.  I  remember  him  reading  it  to  me  before  he  gave  it  to 
Henry  Watts,  who  was  a  great  friend  of  his  and  used  to  come  to 
the  Square  [St.  George's  Square].  But  I  have  no  duplicate  ;  I 
can  only  tell  from  memory  and  by  the  style,  which  is  unmistak- 




Bravery  never  goes  out  of  fashion. — Thackeray. 

Heroism  feels  and  never  reasons,  and  therefore  is  always 
right.  — Emerson. 

THE  reader  is  asked  to  go  back  in  imagina- 
tion to  a  scene  on  the  River  Thames  in 
the  year  1854.  In  consequence  of  the  great 
contamination  of  the  Thames  by  the  influx  of 
the  sewage  of  London  and  the  bad  odours 
emanating  from  it,  an  Act  was  passed  soon 
after  this  date  empowering  the  Metropolitan 
Board  of  Works  to  undertake  its  purification 
by  constructing  new  drainage.  Even  in  1863, 
Mr.  Leach,  Engineer  of  the  Conservators, 
reported  that  "  The  river  is  dreadfully  misman- 
aged from  its  source  to  its  mouth." 

2         LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

London  was  suffering  from  cholera  ;  indeed, 
in  this  year,  1854,  over  20,000  persons  died 
from  that  plague  in  England  and  Wales. 

The  River  Thames,  then,  was  in  this  year, 
1854,  neither  more  nor  less  than  an  open  sewer, 
and  possibly  no  part  of  the  sewer  was  worse 
than  that  at  Wapping — Wapping,  famous  in 
song  and  story.  But  if  anything  could  be  worse 
than  the  river  at  Wapping,  it  was  the  water  in 
Wapping  Dock,  which  the  reader  may  conceive 
as  a  filthy  mixture,  yellow-brown  in  colour,  and 
almost  of  the  consistency  of  soup. 

Across  the  Wapping  Dock  Bridge  one  day  in 
the  summer  of  the  year  mentioned,  came  two 
sailors  from  a  neighbouring  vessel  on  their  way 
to  the  town.  As  they  walked  up  the  lane  near 
the  Dock  there  suddenly  rose  a  cry  of  "  Man 
overboard !" 

They  ran  back  and  found  that  a  boy  had  fall- 
en over  into  the  poisonous  cesspool.  The 
bravest  of  men  might  have  been  excused  if,  for 
a  moment,  he  hesitated  before  plunging  into 
that  water  to  rescue  the  lad,  but  one  of  the  two 
sailormen  never  hesitated  a  moment.  Without 
any  thought  of  consequences,  he  hastily  tore  at 


his  coat,  while  his  quick  eye  looked  about  seek- 
ing to  locate  the  place  where  the  boy  had  gone 

Ah !  there  he  is !  For  a  moment  a  head 
showed  above  the  water  and  a  despairing  hand 
frantically  clutched  at  the  air,  then  disappeared 

Curse  the  coat !  Would  it  never  come  off? 
The  sailor  tore  at  it,  but  one  sleeve  had  caught 
somehow  ;  so  without  spending  more  time  in 
his  efforts  to  detach  it,  he  leapt  over  the  bridge 
and  into  the  water  with  the  coat  hanging  to 
him  by  the  one  sleeve,  much  hampering  his 

Oh,  that  dive  into  the  horrible  water !  Down 
into  it  he  had  to  go,  feeling  about  for  the  drown- 
ing boy,  for  no  ray  of  light  could  penetrate  those 
turbid  depths.  Down  and  down,  feeling  here 
and  there,  till  at  last  his  hand  came  in  contact 
with  the  lad,  and  with  the  grip  of  a  strong  man 
he  seized  him,  brought  him  to  the  surface  and 
so  to  the  shore. 

And  now,  as  the  rescuer  stood  panting  after 
his  exertions,  there  came  to  him  a  gold-braided 
official  who  said, 

4         LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

44  My  brave  fellow !  You  have  done  a  noble 
deed  this  day  !     Where  do  you  hail  from  ?  " 

44  Fra  Sunnerlan',  sir,"  was  the  reply. 

"Well,  well,  then  Sunderland  should  be  proud 
of  you.  Should  ever  you  come  to  London 
again  call  at  (giving  him  an  address),  and  you 
shall  not  go  unrewarded." 

14  Thank'ee,  sir,"  said  the  sailor,  as  he  returned 
to  his  ship  to  change  his  clothes. 

It  was  not  the  first  life  this  young  sailor  had 
saved  ;  no,  indeed,  for  though  but  a  young  man 
there  already  stood  to  his  credit  a  record  of  six- 
teen lives  saved  by  his  individual  exertions  ;  for 
the  young  sailor  was  Harry  Watts,  of  Sunder- 
land, who,  all  unconsciously,  was  building  up 
that  remarkable  record  of  his  as  a  saver  of  life. 

But  though  not  the  first  life  saved  by  him,  it 
was  fraught  with  more  serious  consequences 
than  any  previous  attempt.  He  had  swal- 
lowed a  good  deal  of  the  water,  and  the  poison 
in  it  wrought  havoc  with  him.  By  the  time  he 
had  returned  to  Sunderland  he  was  so  ill  that 
Dr.  Francis  was  called  in  to  attend  to  him.  He 
lay  week  after  week  as  helpless  as  a  child,  and 
for  three  months  he  fought  with  the  illness  be- 


fore  he  got  the  mastery  of  it.  It  was  a  very 
different-looking  Harry  Watts  who  then,  as  a 
convalescent,  came  tottering  out  of  his  house  in 
Silver  Street,  from  the  Harry  Watts  who  had 
jumped  into  the  water  at  Wapping  Dock. 

To  make  matters  worse  his  long  spell  of  ill- 
ness and  consequent  loss  of  wages  had  strained 
the  modest  resources  of  his  little  household  to 
breaking  point,  and  for  a  while  he  had  to  look 
helplessly  on  while  his  wife  patiently  made  the 
best  battle  she  could  for  the  family  of  five,  for 
there  were  three  little  children. 

Now  a  simple  confiding  faith  in  humanity  has 
always  been  the  heritage  of  the  sons  of  Nep- 
tune, and  Harry  Watts  was  as  ingenuous,  as 
simple,  and  as  frank  and  generous  as  any  sailor- 
man  could  be.  And  what  he  was  in  his  deal- 
ings with  others,  that,  he  considered  as  a  matter 
of  course,  others  would  be  in  their  dealings  with 

You  are  asked,  then,  to  consider  for  a  moment 
the  picture  of  this  once  sturdy  sailor,  now  thin 
and  worn,  sitting  by  his  door-cheek,  weak  and 
exhausted,  impatiently  waiting  for  his  health 
and  strength  to  return  to  him,  and  pondering 

6         LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

how  to  provide  for  his  helpless  family,  now  re- 
duced to  the  most  straitened  circumstances. 

He  had  saved  many  lives,  but  no  reward  for 
those  services  had  ever  come  to  him;  nay,  more, 
no  thought  of  reward  had  ever  entered  his 
mind.  What  he  had  done  had  been  done  spon- 
taneously and  forgotten  almost  as  soon  as  done. 
Without  knowing  it  he  was  in  truth  living  up  to 
the  great  ideal  of  Eastern  theological  teaching 
— doing  good  without  any  thought  of  personal 

But  now,  brought  face  to  face  with  the  bitter 
problem  of  the  merely  material  side  of  life — how 
to  provide  for  the  necessities  of  his  loved  ones 
— his  mind  presently  reverted  to  the  gold-braid- 
ed official  at  Wapping  Dock  who  had  spoken 
so  bravely  of  the  rescue,  and  had  invited  him 
to  call  for  a  reward.  Well,  he  would  go  there 
and  get  the  reward  ;  it  might  help  him  out  of 
his  present  sad  circumstances. 

So,  urged  by  the  iron  law  of  necessity,  long 
before  he  was  physically  fit,  he  shipped  in  a 
vessel  called  the  "George  Smith,"  bound  for 
London,  leaving  his   family  in  such  dire  straits 


that  they  had  not  a  bite  of  bread  in  the  house 
on  the  day  he  sailed. 

Arrived  at  Long  Reach  the  ship  had  to  lay 
up  there  till  the  cargo  was  sold  ;  and  here  is  the 
sequel  of  that  rescue  at  Wapping  as  told  by  the 
rescuer : 

"  Wad  ye  be  as  kind,  sir,  as  to  len'  me  three 
shilling'  ?"  said  Harry  to  the  skipper. 

"  Len'  thee  three  shilling',  Harry?  What 

"  Wey,  whin  aw  wes  alang  at  Wappin'  Dock 
aboot  three  months  sin,  aw  jumped  ower  efter 
a  lad  as  wes  droonin'.  An'  a  gentleman  cam' 
an'  tell't  us  ti  caal  on  'im  ef  ivver  aw'm  alang 
heer  agyen." 

The  three  shillings  being  advanced,  Harry 
set  off  to  find  his  admirer.  After  some  trouble 
he  succeeded,  and,  in  his  simple  sailor  way,  told 
who  he  was  and  why  he  had  called, 

"Oh,  indeed,"  said  the  man  with  a  doubtful 
smile,  "but  we  cannot  believe  every  tale  that  is 
told  to  us,  you  know  ;  if  we  did  I  don't  know 
where  we  should  be  landed.  We  have  impost- 
ors coming  here  every  day,  and  how  am  I  to 
know  but  that  you  are ." 

8         LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

But  that  was  enough.  Too  indignant  for 
words,  Harry  left  the  place  and  returned  to  his 

But  this  incident  set  him  thinking.  To  a 
mind  so  frank  and  simple,  the  idea  of  claiming 
to  have  done  something  which  he  had  not  done 
was  preposterous ;  but  here  was  a  man  who 
thought  it  not  only  possible  but  probable. 
What  if  others  thought  so  too,  how  was  he  to 
prove  the  truth  of  his  assertions?  Education 
was  uncommon  among  the  working  classes  in 
those  days,  and  the  strenuous  struggle  for  bare 
existence  had  left  him  no  opportunity  of  acquir- 
ing even  the  rudiments  of  an  education  ;  he 
was,  in  fact,  like  thousands  of  his  fellows,  un- 
able even  to  read  or  write. 

Pondering  upon  the  matter  he  presently  re- 
solved that  he  would  for  the  future,  as  far  as 
possible,  have  some  sort  of  testimony  to  back 
up  his  statements  ;  and  this  ultimately  led  to  his 
keeping  all  newspaper  references  to  himself  that 
he  came  across,  and  all  letters  received  from 
those  to  whom  he  had  rendered  service,  or  from 
his  admirers. 

After  a  time  some  good  friend  pasted   these 


into  a  big  book,  and  these  cuttings,  letters,  and 
writings  are  the  main  building  materials  on 
which  I  have  had  to  rely  in  the  erection  of  the 
present  work. 

This  Journal  is  unique  in  its  way.  Here  are 
long  reports  cut  from  papers  with  the  names  of 
the  journals  but  no  dates  ;  little  snippings, 
almost  indecipherable  from  age  and  use  before 
they  were  pasted  into  this  their  last  resting 
place,  most  of  them  without  either  name  of 
paper  or  date  ;  letters  from  admiring  townsmen; 
from  grateful  people  rescued  from  drowning  by 
this  humble  hero  ;  notes  of  congratulation  and 
thanks  from  shipowners  and  colliery  managers, 
for  whom  the  recipient,  as  a  diver,  had  done 
successful  work  ;  photographs;  poems  too,  eulo- 
gising the  courage  and  ability  of  "  Harry  Watts, 
the  Diver."  Here  at  the  beginning  of  the  book 
is  an  attempt  at  a  biography,  some  sixty  pages 
of  it,  evidently  written  by  one  who  felt  deep 
appreciation  for  the  man  of  whom  he  wrote. 
Lying  between  the  leaves  of  the  Journal  is 
yet  another  biographical  attempt,  four  pages  of 
foolscap  written  by  some  loving  hand  ;  and, 
packed  away  in  a  small  envelope,  four  separate 

io       LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

sheets  containing  some  fifty  words  each,  relat- 
ing to  incidents  in  Harry's  religious  life. 

With  the  exception  of  the  sixty  pages  of  bio- 
graphical notes,  there  has  been  no  attempt  at 
sequence  or  chronological  order,  and  many  of 
the  reports  and  letters,  though  relating  to  thrill- 
ing incidents,  are  limited  to  a  few  lines. 

The  student  of  Sartor  Resartus  will  no  doubt 
be  irresistibly  reminded  of  the  difficulties  of  the 
editor  of  that  remarkable  book  when  Professor 
Teufelsdrockh  sent  him  those  "Six  considerable 
Paper- Bags,  carefully  sealed  and  marked  suc- 
cessively, in  Gilt  China-ink,  with  the  symbols 
of  the  Six  southern  Zodiacal  Signs,  beginning 
at  Libra  ;  in  the  inside  of  which  sealed  Bags 
lie  miscellaneous  masses  of  sheets,  and  oftener 
Shreds  and  Snips,  written  in  Professor  Teufels- 
drockh's    scarce   legible   cursive  -  schrift ;    and 

treating  of  all  imaginable  things but  of 

his  own  personal  history  only  at  rare  intervals." 

Nevertheless,  in  this  case  as  in  that,  we  may 
hope  that  patience  will  overcome  these  obs- 
tacles. Having  read  through  the  Journal  from 
cover  to  cover,  I  rise  from  its  perusal  with  a 
confused  mass  of  thoughts,  facts,  and  incidents 


jostling  each  other  in  the  audience  chamber  of 
my  mind,  like  a  first-night  crowd  in  the  limited 
space  of  a  theatre  vestibule  ;  but  clear  and  plain, 
head  and  shoulders  above  the  surging  crowd, 
stands  the  chief  actor,  commanding  my  atten- 
tion, my  respect,  and  my  admiration. 

As  I  consider  him  another  thought  from  Sar- 
tor Resartus  comes  to  my  mind  :  "  Biography 
is  by  nature  the  most  universally  profitable, 
universally  pleasant  of  all  things  :  especially  Bi- 
ography of  distinguished  individuals."  That 
this  is  the  biography  of  a  man  worthy  of  being 
placed  well  up  on  any  list  of  distinguished  in- 
dividuals I  hope  to  show. 



To  be  ignorant  of  what  has  happeiied  before  you  were 
born  is  to  be  ever  a  child.  For  what  is  man's  lifetime 
unless  the  memory  of  past  events  is  woven  with  those  of 
earlier  times  ? — Cicero. 

TO  estimate  the  character  of  a  man  rightly 
it  is  necessary  to  know  something  of  the 
time  in  which  he  lived,  of  the  world  into  which 
he  was  born,  and  more  particularly  of  that  part 
of  it  which  to  him  was  the  stage  of  life  ;  of  his 
surroundings,  social  conditions, — in  a  word  his 
environment.  For  though  these  things  may  not 
be  wholly  responsible  for  a  man's  character,  they 
certainly  do  modify  it  and  go  far  towards  ex- 
plaining it. 

"  Every  great  man,"  says  Grant  Allen  in  his 
Life  of  Darwin,  "is  the  direct  cumulative  pro- 
duct of  his  physical  predecessors,  and  works 
and  is  worked  upon  in  innumerable  ways  by  the 
particular  environment  into  whose  midst  he  is 

WHEN    WATTS    WAS    BORN      13 

It  is  necessary  therefore  to  see  what  were  the 
conditioning  circumstances  into  which  the  sub- 
ject of  this  sketch  was  born,  for,  knowing  the 
strength  of  the  forces  opposed  to  him,  we  shall 
be  the  better  able  to  estimate  the  greatness  of 
his  victory. 

Henry  Watts  was  born  in  Silver  Street,  in 
the  East  End  of  Sunderland,  on  June  15th, 

Vast  indeed  is  the  difference  between  the  Sun- 
derland of  the  present  day  and  the  Sunderland 
of  1820-30,  for  the  growth  and  development  of 
the  town  in  the  interval,  and  especially  during 
the  last  thirty  years,  has  been  little  short  of 

The  population  of  Sunderland  as  shown  by 
the  Census  of  182 1,  was  33,911.  Burnett's 
History  of  Sunderland,  published  in  1830,  tells 
us  that  "  within  these  few  years  Monkwear- 
mouth  is  considerably  improved.  Instead  of 
bleak  ballast  hills,  these  hills  are  now  shrub- 
beries, or  are  in  pastures." 

In  1826  the  first  railway  (as  we  now  know 
them)  was  yet  to  be  built.  There  was  one  de- 
livery of  letters  per  day — if  all  went  well  with 

i4        LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

the  coach  which  conveyed  them — and  a  journey- 
to  London  was  a  long,  a  costly,  and  sometimes 
a  risky  business.  The  town  of  Seaham  Harbour 
and  the  collieries  surrounding  it  were  not  then  in 
existence,  for  "  on  the  28th  of  November,  1828, 
the  first  stones  of  the  pier  and  the  new  town  of 
Port  Seaham  were  laid  by  the  Marquis  of  Lon- 
donderry and  his  son,  Viscount  Seaham." 

Sunderland  had  just  been  lighted  with  gas, 
though  the  privilege  did  not  extend  to  the  whole 
of  the  town  ;  and  the  same  applied  to  the  water 
supply.  Waterworks  had  been  established  at 
the  West  part  of  Bishopwearmouth,  and  the 
water  was  "conveyed  in  pipes  to  the  houses  o( 
the  more  respectable  inhabitants." 

Jack  Crawford,  the  hero  of  Camperdown, 
was  then  living  in  Sunderland  in  the  enjoyment 
of  his  pension  of  ^30  a  year ;  a  cattle  market 
was  held  fortnightly  in  the  town,  and  there  was 
a  half-yearly  hiring  for  servants.  What  is  now 
called  the  Old  Market  did  not  then  exist. 

A  plan  of  the  town  in  Garbutt's  History  of 
Sunderland,  published  in  18 19,  shows  nothing 
but  fields  to  the  south  and  west  of  Norfolk 
Street,  except  that  there  were  a  few  small  dwel- 

WHEN    WATTS    WAS    BORN      15 

ling  houses  to  the  west  of  what  is  now  Fawcett 
Street.  Indeed,  the  whole  business  part  of  the 
town  then,  and  for  many  years  afterwards,  was 
in  High  Street,  to  the  eastward  of  Norfolk 
Street,  much  of  the  residential  property  being 
in  the  streets  which  ran  off  from  High  Street 
to  the  south  and  north. 

As  to  the  condition  of  the  streets,  it  is  inte- 
resting to  note  that  "  Some  years  ago  the  Parish 
of  Sunderland  gave  a  scavenger  ^25  a-year  to 
take  the  manure  from  the  streets  ;  in  1827  they 
received  ^160  per  year  from  a  scavenger  for 
the  liberty  to  take  it  away."  With  the  streets  in 
such  a  condition  as  this  implies,  it  is  not  sur- 
prising that  epidemics  were  frequent  and  severe, 
or  that  the  cholera  took  such  a  ready  hold  of 
the  town  in  1831. 

An  Improvement  Act  for  "cleansing,  light- 
ing, watching  and  otherwise  improving  the 
town,"  was  obtained  in  1826,  and  Commission- 
ers were  appointed  to  put  the  Act  into  force — 
not  before  time  apparently. 

The  Pier — the  old  South  Pier — is  spoken  of 
as  "  Ranking  as  high  in  point  of  utility  and 
elegance  as  any  in  his  Majesty's  dominions." 

16        LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

We  of  the  present  day  are  so  accustomed  to 
the  many  and  great  improvements  in  the  town, 
that  we  are  rather  apt  to  under-rate  them.  It 
was  not  so  in  those  days,  as  will  be  seen  from 
the  following  description  of  the  Port  of  Sunder- 
land, written  by  a  Mr.  R.  Dodds,  civil  engineer, 
who  had  visited  the  town  to  make  a  survey  of 
Sunderland  Harbour  : — 

11  Does  anyone  wish  to  have  a  just  idea  of  the 
extensive  trade  of  this  Port  ?  let  him  go  where 
I  once  stood.  (The  South  Pier.)  No  sooner 
there  than  casting  my  eyes  to  the  Southward, 
over  the  curling  crystal  flood,  as  Homer  beau- 
tifully observes,  I  saw  a  wood  of  ships,  a  zephyr 
was  gently  fanning  them  to  the  port,  all  sails 
drew,  and  their  streamers  were  waving  in  the 
wind.  This  prominent  point,  the  pier  end,  where 
I  stood,  stretching  out  into  the  sea,  soon  became 
thronged.  Here  with  glad  steps  came  some  of 
Eve's  fairest  daughters  ;  some  hung  on  their 
arm  the  cherub  form,  and  by  their  side  the  ten- 
der offspring  led.  What  glittering  eyes  of  glad- 
ness were  fixed  on  this  fleet  ;  some  to  husbands, 
some  to  lovers.  Does  the  artist  want  a  subject 
of  nature  to  paint  joy  and  gladness  by?      He 

WHEN    WATTS    WAS    BORN      17 

cannot  be  better  served  than  here.  And  for  sad- 
ness, on  the  days  of  departure,  he  would  see  the 
half-closed  eye  with  the  crystal  tear  dropping 
down  many  a  fair  cheek." 

But  in  spite  of  all  the  sentimental  Mr.  Dodds 
had  to  say,  there  was  yet  no  dock  of  any  kind 
for  the  "wood  of  ships"  to  take  refuge  in,  nor 
was  there  to  be  for  another  dozen  years,  when 
the  North  Dock  was  opened  (1839). 

Mr.  Watts  affirms  that  so  badly  was  the  river 
attended  to  in  those  days  that  he  could  wade 
across  it  near  the  mouth. 

The  Committee  of  the  Commissioners  ap- 
pointed to  consider  the  suggestion  "  of  forming 
a  Wet  Dock  at  Sunderland,"  refused  to  have 
anything  to  do  with  such  a  scheme,  "leaving 
the  matter  perfectly  open  to  any  body  of  adven- 
turers who  may  be  inclined  to  undertake  the 
same,"  and  adding  that  "as  far  as  the  Commis- 
sioners are  concerned  as  a  body,  the  idea  of 
forming  a  Wet  Dock  falls  to  the  ground."  And 
there  it  remained  till  1850,  when  the  South 
Dock  was  opened. 

In  1826,  when  Harry  Watts  was  born,  the 
keelmen   and   casters   were  in    the  hey-day  of 

18         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

their  prosperity,  they  and  the  sailors  forming 
the  majority  of  the  population  of  the  town. 
The  coal  was  brought  down  the  river  in  keels 
to  the  ships  waiting  for  it,  and  the  casters  were 
the  men  who  shovelled,  or  cast  it  from  the  keels 
into  the  ships.  Like  the  sailors  they  were  rough, 
unlettered  men,  but  hardy,  brave,  and  generous, 
and  possessed  of  native  wit  and  force  of  char- 

The  circumstances  of  the  Watts  family  will 
be  dealt  with  in  the  next  chapter,  but  it  is  neces- 
sary to  mention  here  the  condition  of  the  class 
of  people  in  Sunderland  to  which  that  family 

The  poor  were  very  poor,  and  there  were 
many  of  them.  The  following  is  extracted  from 
the  private  diary  of  a  Mr.  Edward  Atkinson,  a 
grocer,  who  had  a  shop  down  High  Street  East, 
just  by  Wylam's  Wharf,  and  who  died  in  1804 
at  the  age  of  71.  The  diary  is  in  the  posses- 
sion of  a  lady  in  the  town,  who  kindly  allowed 
me  to  make  extracts  from  it.  The  facts  and 
figures  given  are  not  to  be  found  in  any  local 
history,  and  are  therefore  the  more  valuable. 
Mr.  Atkinson   gives    the  actual   figures  of  the 

WHEN    WATTS    WAS    BORN      19 

cost  of  maintaining  the  poor  in  each  of  the  Par- 
ishes of  Bishopwearmouth,  Bishopwearmouth 
Panns,  and  Monkwearmouth,  with  the  M  Man- 
ner of  laying  on  the  Poor  Cess,"  and  many  other 
interesting  details.  To  give  the  whole  of  the 
figures  might  tire  the  reader,  but  we  may  take 
the  Sunderland  Parish  as  an  example. 

"  The  manner  of  laying  on  the  Poor  Cess  at 
Sunderland  : 

Year  1771,  3^d.  per  £  per  month  on  real  (estate?) 
ifd.  per  keel  on  ships. 
3^d.  per  coal  keel  per  month. 
3^d.  on  every  20/-  of  stock. 
"  In  the  year  1 77 1,  expended  on  maintaining 
the  poor,  ,£1,185  1 3s-  4^." 

In  1786  the  amount  had  risen  to £2, 104  9s.  3s., 
and  in  1790  the  Sunderland  rate  is  given  as  : 
7^d.  per  month  per  £  rental  12  months. 
7^d.  per  month  for  keels  or  lighters. 
3|d.  per  month  per  keel  to  shipping. 
7^d.  for  every  20/-  stock  in  trade. 
M  May  1790  to  May  1791,  Poor  Cess  ,£1,985 
13s.  3d.     The  total  number  of  paupers  in  Sun- 
derland in  1790-1  was  1,106,  of  whom  931  be- 
long to  Sunderland  Parish." 

20         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

Mr.  Atkinson  states  that  the  number  of  paup- 
ers so  increased  that  the  Workhouse  could  not 
hold  them,  and  it  became  necessary,  for  the  sec- 
ond time,  to  make  an  addition  to  the  building  at 
a  cost  of  ^600.  "This  sum,"  says  the  diarist, 
"will  be  very  difficult  to  raise  from  the  present 
inhabitants,  particularly  as  a  great  number  of 
the  opulent  part  of  the  inhabitants  have  re- 
moved from  the  Parish  to  reside  to  avoid  pay- 
ing the  great  and  increasing  poor  rate.  Of  the 
above  men  are  71  shipowners  removed  into  the 
township  of  Bishopwearmouth  ;  and  several 
more  of  the  wealthiest  say  they  will  remove  if 
steps  be  not  taken  to  reduce  the  rate." 

The  figures  given  may  seem  small  compared 
with  our  present  expenditure,  but  it  must  be  re- 
membered that  the  total  population  of  Sunder- 
land at  that  time  barely  exceeded  20,000.  But 
in  Sunderland  Parish,  with  which  we  are  chiefly 
concerned,  Mr.  Atkinson's  figures  show  that 
about  one  in  every  ten  of  the  population  was  a 
pauper,  for  in  1791  the  population  of  the  Parish 
was  barely  1 1,000. 

In  the  early  part  of  the  nineteenth  century 
things  had   not  improved.      Mr.  Watts  well  re- 

WHEN    WATTS    WAS    BORN      21 

members  the  terrible  struggle  for  existence 
among  the  poor,  and  particularly  among  the 
children.  Every  day  scores  of  them  spent  the 
greater  part  of  their  time  on  the  beach  gather- 
ing coals,  and  trying  to  find  anything  edible  to 
satisfy  their  hunger.  The  poverty  of  the  work- 
ers generally  was  very  great,  and  they  had  to 
live  on  the  very  cheapest  and  commonest  food. 
There  was  no  attempt  at  education  apart  from 
what  was  done  by  the  Sunday  Schools  ;  indeed, 
the  children  of  the  working  people  had  to  begin 
work  almost  as  soon  as  they  could  walk. 

The  class  of  workers  into  which  Harry  Watts 
was  born  were  housed  as  badly  as  they  were 
fed,  and  scarcely  any  attention  was  paid  to  sani- 

Yet  occasionally,  when  the  innate  human 
craving  for  relaxation  and  enjoyment  insisted 
upon  being  satisfied,  the  sans-culottes  would 
come  out  of  their  dark  rooms  and  their  cellars, 
and  gather  together  for  festivity  in  the  open 
streets  at  night.  For  years,  according  to  Mr. 
Watts,  it  was  the  custom  now  and  again  for  the 
people  in  Silver  Street,  and  in  other  streets  too, 
to  gather  wood  and  coals  and  build  huge  bon- 

22         LIFE   OF    HARRY  WATTS 

fires  in  the  middle  of  the  street,  perhaps  six  or 
seven  of  them  along  the  length  of  the  street. 
From  their  meagre  resources  they  would  sub- 
scribe to  a  common  fund  wherewith  to  purchase 
a  cask  of  small  beer.  A  large  pan  of  pease- 
pudding  was  made,  which,  with  the  beer,  served 
for  M  refreshments."  A  fiddler  was  engaged  or 
"pressed"  into  the  service,  and  dancing  was 
indulged  in,  the  festivities  lasting  till  the  "wee 
sma'  oors  ayont  the  twal',"  till,  in  fact,  the  fires 
had  burnt  out  for  want  of  fuel. 

A  strange,  weird  scene — the  roar  and  crackle 
of  the  fires ;  the  wavering  smoke,  half  hiding 
the  fantastic  figures  as  they  dance  about  the  fire 
with  rude  jest  and  laughter  ;  the  old  people 
sitting  mumbling  on  their  doorsteps,  wishing 
but  not  daring  to  take  part  in  the  ceremonies 
— a  scene  reminiscent  of  Ibsen's  Peer  Gynt, 
when  the  Trolls,  Gnomes,  and  Brownies,  to 
Grieg's  distracting  music,  dance  Peer  to  the 
verge  of  madness. 

A  rather  striking  picture  of  Sunderland  at 
the  period  we  are  dealing  with,  and  of  the  social 
life  of  the  workers,  is  given  in  a  little  pamphlet 
containing  the  reminiscences  of  the  late  Thomas 


WHEN    WATTS    WAS    BORN      23 

Sanderson.  Many  people  in  Sunderland  will 
remember  "Tommy,  the  Bellman,"  a  quaint  old 
man,  who  wrote  verses  about  anything  and 
everything  on  the  smallest  provocation,  wrote 
them,  indeed,  without  any  provocation  whatever. 
Fairness  compels  one  to  say  that  his  "poetry" 
was  akin  to  that  which  Mr.  Silas  Wegg  evolved 
for  the  edification  of  Mr.  Boffin  ;  but  in  spite  of 
this  little  failing  of  his,  Mr.  Sanderson's  book 
shows  him  to  have  been  a  man  of  considerable 
ability,  and  but  for  the  fact  that  he  was  cursed 
with  a  roving  disposition,  and  was  "everything 
by  turns  and  nothing  long,"  he  might  have  end- 
ed his  days  in  a  position  of  more  affluence  than 
that  of  Town  Crier. 

Sanderson  was  born  in  1808  in  a  house  near 
Hind's  Bridge,  and  the  hardness  of  his  life  as  a 
child  may  be  judged  from  the  fact  that  he  and 
his  father  "  used  to  go  into  the  woods  to  gather 
acorns,  which  we  roasted  and  ate  for  food."  He 
was  apprenticed  as  a  shipwright,  and  was  mar- 
ried in  1830  at  the  age  of  twenty-two,  before  he 
was  out  of  his  apprenticeship,  and  when  his 
wages  were  seven  shillings  a  week ! 

24         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

About  1820  he  tells  us,  "salt  was  at  this 
time  4<d.  or  5<d.  a  pound,  sugar  1/-,  coffee  2/-,  tea 
10/-,  and  flour  5/-  a  stone,  and  quite  unsound." 
Flour  in  their  household,  when  he  was  a  boy, 
was  quite  out  of  the  question  owing  to  its  price, 
and  his  mother  often  sent  him  round  to  several 
bakers'  shops  to  get  samples,  which  she  mixed 
together  and  made  into  a  cake  to  satisfy  their 
hunger.  Most  of  the  people  made  their  own 
salt,  candles,  and  matches. 

He  tells  how  he  once  saw  a  man  in  the  stocks 
on  Bishopwearmouth  Green  ;  and  here  is  an 
amusing  story  he  relates  of  one  Jimmy  Donald- 
son, the  sexton  of  Bishopwearmouth  Church  : — 

"  The  good  folks  of  Bishopwearmouth  were 
in  the  habit  of  having  a  hot  cake  for  breakfast 
on  a  Sunday  morning,  about  the  diameter  of 
twenty  inches,  some  plain  kneaded  and  others 
with  currants,  &c.  in,  called  in  the  common  ver- 
nacular 'singing  ninnies.'  Jimmy  had  incauti- 
ously laid  his  oven  bottom  with  old  tombstones, 
and  once,  through  stress  of  business,  he  omitted 
to  use  his  tins.  The  result  was  that  many  of 
the  cakes  bore  the  impress  of  a  death's  head  and 
cross-bones,  '  Departed  this  life,'  &c." 

WHEN    WATTS    WAS    BORN      25 

The  author  goes  on  to  say,  "  Sunderland  was 
at  this  time  in  a  wretched  condition.  The  wages 
of  shipwrights  (those  employed)  about  15/-  per 
week,  many  of  whom  were  glad  to  help  in  cut- 
ting away  Houghton-le-Spring  embankment  at 
1/6  a-day. 

"  The  keelmen  were  in  arms,  setting  fire  to 
and  pulling  down  the  staithes  and  railway  bridge 
across  Galley's  Gill.  There  was  only  one  drap- 
er's shop  in  Bishopwearmouth,  between  Queen 
Street  and  Dunning  Street,  High  Street,  kept 
at  that  time  by  a  Mr.  Crass,  who  appeared  to 
do  little  trade,  for  there  seemed  to  be  no  middle- 
class  people  ;  thousands  excessively  poor  with 
but  few  wealthy. 

"You  might  have  walked  down  High  Street 
and  have  seen  scarcely  a  woman  with  a  gown 
on,  except  on  Sundays,  their  habiliments  being 
a  calamankey*  petticoat,  a  cotton  jacket,  and 
linen  blue-and-white-checked  apron  with  a  bib. 
These  native  women  might  have  been  seen 
wending  their  way  to  work  in  the  fields  with 
children  on  their  backs.     No  gas,  no  flagging, 

*  Calamanco,  woollen  stuff,  of  a  fine  gloss,  and  checkered  in 
the  warp. 

26         LIFE   OF    HARRY  WATTS 

no  policemen,  no  market-place,  a  few  sentry 
boxes,  and  a  few  old  men,  as  watchmen,  who 
patrolled  the  streets  calling  the  hour  and  the 
state  of  the  weather  ;  pigs  running  about  and 
rutting  up  the  streets,  often  with  boys  astride 
their  backs.  I  saw  a  man  pilloried  at  the  foot 
of  Church  Street  being  pelted  with  rotten 
eggs,   &c.M 

Such,  then,  was  the  Sunderland  into  which 
Henry  Watts  was  born,  and  the  conditions  which 
environed  him.  It  is  the  purpose  of  this  his- 
tory to  follow  him  in  his  struggle  with  those 
conditions,  and  to  see  how,  though  handicapped 
to  an  extent  which  might  well  have  justified 
despair,  he  yet  rendered  an  account  of  himself 
which  many  born  in  more  favourable  circum- 
stances might  envy. 



Let  not  Ambition  mock  their  useful  toil, 
Their  homely  joys  and  destiny  obscure  ; 

Nor  Grandeur  hear,  with  a  disdainful  smile, 
The  short  and  simple  annals  oj  the  poor. 

— Gray's  ' 'Elegy." 

WILLIAM  Watts  and  Elizabeth  his  wife, 
the  parents  of  Henry,  lived  in  Silver 
Street  for  some  years  before  Henry  was  born, 
the  place  where  the  house  stood  being  now  oc- 
cupied by  the  south-west  corner  of  Harrison's 
buildings.  There  were  five  children — Isabella, 
William,  Ellen,  James,  and  Henry,  the  subject 
of  this  sketch  being  the  youngest.  Mrs.  Watts 
died  when  Henry  was  but  seven  years  old,  so 
that  he  remembers  very  little  about  her  ;  his 
sisters  and  his  brother  James  lived  to  a  ripe  old 
age.  His  brother  William  was  drowned  at  sea, 
his  ship,  the  "  Richard,"  being  driven  ashore  at 
Tenby,  in  Carmarthen  Bay,  in  a  gale  of  wind. 

28         LIFE    OF  HARRY  WATTS 

Henry  tells  the  story  of  this  wreck  with  great 
feeling,  and  especially  one  incident  connected 
with  it.  His  brother,  as  the  ship  drove  ashore, 
made  for  the  rigging,  but  a  huge  wave  over- 
whelmed him  and  he  was  seen  no  more.  A  few 
of  the  crew  were  got  ashore  by  means  of  the 
life-line  and  chair,  the  last  to  leave  being  a  sea- 
man named  Robert  Clasper,  "the  only  man  in 
the  ship,"  says  Henry,  "who  cared  anything 
about  religion."  Scarcely  had  the  chair  with 
Clasper  in  it  left  the  ship,  than  the  backstay,  to 
which  the  life-line  was  fast,  broke,  and  then 
nothing  could  save  him.  He  was  last  seen  hold- 
ing up  his  clasped  hands  and  singing  "Jesu, 
lover  of  my  soul."  "  A  grand  thing  ti  dee, 
an' a  rare  brave  man!"   says   Henry  fervently. 

Henry's  father  was  a  mariner,  but  he  can 
only  remember  his  father  making  one  voyage, 
in  a  ship  called  the  "  Castlereagh."  After  this 
he  became  a  confirmed  invalid  and  spent  most 
of  his  time  in  bed,  being  a  great  sufferer  from 

Nor  is  this  to  be  wondered  at  considering  the 
place  in  which  the  family  lived.  Henry  de- 
scribes it  as  an  underground  kitchen  or  cellar. 

EARLY    DAYS  29 

At  any  rate  the  place  was  below  the  level  of  the 
ground,  for  there  were  some  half  dozen  steps 
leading  down  into  it,  and  though  that  particular 
house  is  done  away  with,  there  are  still  plenty 
of  similar  tenements  to  be  seen  in  Silver  Street 
at  the  present  day. 

Not  far  from  the  place  where  the  Watts  family 
lived  was  a  well  which  overflowed  whenever  it 
rained  heavily,  and  the  water  ran  into  their  room, 
so  that  it  was  no  uncommon  thing  for  the  whole 
of  the  family  to  be  engaged  in  baling  out  the 

In  this  one  unhealthy  room  the  family  lived 
during  the  whole  of  Henry's  childhood.  There, 
too,  the  mother  died,  and  the  father  lay  ill  for 
years,  unable  to  do  anything  towards  the  sup- 
port of  his  family.  The  sisters  obtained  an  oc- 
casional day's  washing,  and  the  two  younger 
boys  ran  errands,  or  joined  other  children  on 
the  beach,  gathering  coal,  and  eagerly  watching 
for  any  flotsam  or  jetsam  which  might  come 
ashore.  No  doubt  Harry  inherited  his  love  for 
the  sea,  but  that  love  was  developed  and  cher- 
ished by  the  many  long  days  spent  on  the  sea 
shore  during  his  childhood.      He  says  that  he 

3o         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

took  to  the  water  as  naturally  as  a  duck,  and  he 
cannot  remember  the  time  when  he  could  not 

By-and-bye  a  little  relief — a  very  little  relief 
— was  obtained  by  James  securing  a  job  at  a 
baker's  shop,  but  as  the  food  he  got  there  was 
reckoned  as  part  of  his  wages,  his  earnings  in 
money  came  to  but  a  very  small  sum  per  week. 
Still,  it  was  one  mouth  less  to  feed,  and  that  was 

Henry  and  his  brother  James  attended  Sun- 
day School,  but  as  they  had  neither  shoes  nor 
stockings,  and  no  clothes  but  those  they  wore 
during  the  week  (which  were  not  of  the  Sun- 
day School  type),  the  other  boys  attending  the 
school  refused  to  sit  beside  them.  Naturally 
they  felt  this  very  much,  and  after  a  while  left 
the  school  altogether  and  returned  to  Neptune's 
playground,  the  sea  beach,  where  there  was  no 
danger  of  them  being  ostracised. 

But  a  kindly  teacher  came  to  make  enquiries 
after  them,  and  on  learning  the  reason  for  their 
absence,  made  an  arrangement  with  them  which 
enabled  them  to  attend  the  school  once  more. 
He  provided  each  of  them  with  an  outfit,    for 

EARLY    DAYS  31 

which  the  boys  had  to  go  every  Sunday  morn- 
ing. They  carried  these  clothes  home  in  a  bag, 
and,  having  dressed  themselves,  they  marched 
off  bravely  enough  to  the  school,  wore  the  clothes 
all  Sunday  and  returned  them  on  the  Monday 
morning.  This  was  repeated  every  week  for  a 
long  time.  In  spite  of  their  weekly  attendance 
at  the  school,  however,  they  never  acquired  any 
knowledge  of  reading  or  writing.* 

The  childhood  of  Henry  Watts  ceased  at  the 
age  of  nine,  for  at  that  age  he  went  to  work. 
Thenceforth  all  thoughts  of  play  or  frolic  had 
to  be  put  aside,  and  he  had  to  think,  to  devise, 
and  to  act,  for  he  had  become  a  breadwinner, 
and  a  great  part  of  the  responsibility  of  the 
household  rested  on  him. 

"Think  of  it,  my  Lords  and  Gentlemen. 
Think  of  it,  Right  Reverends  and  Wrong  Rev- 
erends of  every  order.  Think  of  it  men  and 
women  born  with  heavenly  compassion  in  your 
hearts,"  a  child  of  nine  going  out  into  the  great 
world  to  fight  the  battle  of  life ! 

*  The  teacher  was  a  Mr.  Stafford,  who  kept  a  baker's  shop, 
and  it  was  he  who  found  work  for  James  Watts.  In  the  matter 
of  providing-  clothes  for  the  boys  Mr.  Stafford  was  assisted  by 
another  teacher,  a  Mrs.   Binks. 

32         LIFE   OF   HARRY   WATTS 

He  went  to  work  at  the  Garrison  Pottery, 
which  then  stood  opposite  the  old  Quaker  Meet- 
ing House  at  the  East  End  of  the  town,  and  he 
received  a  wage  of  one  shilling  and  sixpence 
a  week ! 

"Think  of  it,  my  Lords  and  Gentlemen. 
Think  of  it,  Right  Reverends  and  Wrong  Rev- 
erends of  every  order,"  a  child  of  nine  forced 
to  toil  every  day  for  twelve  long  hours  for  three- 
pence !  and  no  one,  no  Government,  or  repre- 
sentative of  a  Government,  to  say  "You're 
doing  him  a  great  wrong  and  shall  do  it  no 
longer."  One  begins  to  understand  why  Mrs. 
Browning  was  moved  to  write  The  Cry  of  the 
Children,  the  bitter  cry  of  the  thousands  of 
little  Watts  and  Smiths  all  over  the  kingdom, 
who  were 

H  Weeping  in  the  playtime  of  the  others, 
In  the  country  of  the  free." 

Think  of  the  thousands  who  went  down  in 
the  fight  for  every  one  who  survived  !  If 
the  few  who  did  survive  that  terrible  struggle 
for  existence,  who,  by  force  of  character  and 
strength  of  will,  managed  to  gain  the  victory 
over  circumstances,  if  these  few  lack  what  we 

EARLY    DAYS  33 

call  education,  shall  we  blame  or  despise  them, 
knowing  that 

li .   .  .   knowledge  to  their  eyes  her  ample  page, 
Rich  with  the  spoils  of  time,  did  ne'er  unroll : 
Chill  Penury  repressed  their  noble  rage, 

And  froze  the  genial  current  of  their  soul." 

After  working  at  the  Pottery  for  some  time 
Henry  went  to  a  weaving  factory  in  Fitter's 
Row,  and  worked  there  till  he  was  thirteen 
years  old.  A  growing  lad,  with  a  hunger  that 
was  scarcely  ever  satisfied — or  satisfiable  with 
what  his  puny  hands  could  earn.  And  this 
very  hunger  was  the  main  factor  in  sending  him 
to  sea.  Among  his  boy  acquaintances  were 
some  who  had  bound  themselves  apprentices  to 
the  sea,  and  hearing  from  them  that  they  always 
had  plenty  to  eat,  Harry  resolved  to  become  an 
apprentice  too,  the  more  so  as  he  had  always 
had  a  longing  to  go  to  sea.  So  he  promptly 
walked  out  to  Pallion,  got  himself  bound  ap- 
prentice, was  placed  on  board  the  brig  "  Lena," 
299  tons  burden,  Captain  Gage,  and  went  out 
to  Quebec  in  her. 

Here  his  shore  life  may  be  said  to  have  ended. 
Henceforth  he  becomes  semi-amphibious,  suffer- 

34         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

ing  storm  and  shipwreck,  "  in  journeyings  often, 
in  perils  of  waters,  ...  in  perils  of  robbers,  in 
perils  in  the  sea,"  often  saving  others  from  death 
and  himself  escaping  as  by  a  miracle, — a  stormy, 
tempestuous  voyaging,  yet  arriving  at  last,  after 
seventy  years  of  struggle  and  stress,  at  a  haven 
of  rest. 



Cease,  rude  Boreas,  blustering  railer ! 

List,  ye  landsmen  all,  to  me  / 
Messmates,  hear  a  brother  sailor 

Sing  the  dangers  of  the  sea. 

— G.  A.  Stevens  "The  Storm. " 

THE  Church  registers  of  the  Parish  in  which 
Harry  was  born  have  been  searched  in 
vain  for  the  record  of  his  birth,  and  one  is  forced 
to  the  conclusion  that,  with  the  characteristic  in- 
difference of  those  days  to  such  matters,  the 
birth  was  never  registered.  Nevertheless,  ex- 
haustive inquiries  in  other  directions  have  satis- 
fied me  that  the  date  already  given,  June  15, 
1826,  is  the  correct  date  of  his  birth.  But  in 
this  matter  of  dates  the  above  is  not  the  only 
difficulty  encountered.  Henry  was  apprenticed 
to  the  sea  in  1839,  and  the  following  Indentures 
are  given  as  a  curiosity  in  contradiction.  The 
two  Indentures  are  in  excellent  preservation: — 

36         LIFE  OF   HARRY  WATTS 

INDENTURE    No.    I. 


1 2th  FEB  Y.,   1842. 

This  Indenture 

has  been   registered  wider  Act 

5  &  6 

William  IV.,    Ch.   i9. 

Dated  i< 

5th  June,  1839. 

Indenture  of  Apprenticeship  for  six  years. 





I  st 


£s  10 




•         £$  10 




£l  10 




£s  10 




£9  10 




£\0     IO 


12s.  a  year  in  lieu  of  washing  ; 
8s.  a  week  for  meat  money. 



Bishop  Wearth. 

THIS  INDENTURE  made  the  nineteenth  day  of 
June  the  second  year  of  the  Reign  of  our  Sovereign 
Lady  VICTORIA,  by  the  Grace  of  God,  of  the 
United  Kingdom  of  GREAT  BRITAIN  AND 
IRELAND,   QUEEN,   Defender  of  the  Faith,  and 

THE    CALL   OF    NEPTUNE       37 

in  the  Year  of  our  Lord  One  Thousand  Eight  Hun- 
dred and  thirty  nine,  BETWEEN  Henry  Watt,  son 
of  William  Watt  of  Sunderland  in  the  County  of 
Durham,  Sailor,  aged  fifteen  of  the  One  Part,  and 
James  Leithead  of  the  parish  of  Bishop  Wearmouth 
in  the  same  County  Shipowner  of  the  Other  Part, 
WITNESSETH  that  the  said  Henry  Watt  hath,  of 
his  free  will,  and  with  the  consent  of  his  Father 
put  and  bound  himself  apprentice  unto  the  said 
James  Leithead  with  him,  his  executors,  and  ad- 
ministrators, after  the  manner  of  an  apprentice,  to 
dwell,  remain,  and  serve,  from  the  19  June  1839 
for  and  during,  and  unto  the  full  end  and  term  of 
six  years,  from  thence  next  ensuing,  fully  to  be 
complete  and  ended  ;  during  all  which  term,  the 
said  apprentice  his  said  master  will  well  and  faith- 
fully serve,  his  secrets  keep,  his  lawful  commands 
everywhere  do  and  execute  ;  hurt  or  damage  to  his 
said  master  he  will  not  do,  consent  to,  or  allow  to 
be  done  by  others,  but,  to  the  utmost  of  his  power 
will  hinder  the  same,  and  forthwith  his  said  master 
thereof  warn  ;  taverns  or  alehouses  he  will  not  fre- 
quent, unless  about  his  said  master's  business  ;  at 
dice,  cards,  tables,  bowls,  or  any  unlawful  games, 
he  will  not  play  ;  the  goods  of  his  said  master  he 
will  not  embezzle,  or  waste,  or  lend,  or  give  to  any 
person  or  persons,  without  his  said  master's  license; 
matrimony,  during  the  said  term  he  will  not  con- 
tract ;  nor,  from  the  service  of  his  said  master, 
without  his  consent,  at  any  time,  absent  himself; 

38        LIFE    OF    HARRY   WATTS 

but,  as  a  true  and  faithful  apprentice,  will  demean 
and  behave  himself  towards  his  master,  his  family, 
executors,  or  administrators,  during  the  said  term ; 
and  true  and  just  accounts  of  his  said  master's 
goods,  chattels,  and  money,  committed  to  his 
charge,  or  which  shall  come  into  his  hands,  faith- 
fully he  will  give,  at  all  times,  when  thereunto  re- 
quired by  his  said  master,  his  executors,  or  admin- 
istrators ;  and  will  also  render  an  account  of,  and 
well  and  truly  pay,  or  cause  to  be  paid  unto  his 
said  master,  his  executors  or  administrators,  all 
such  wages,  prize  money,  and  other  sum  or  sums 
of  money,  as  shall  become  due  and  payable  unto 
him  from  her  Majesty,  her  heirs  or  successors,  or 
any  other  person,  in  case  he  shall  be  impressed, 
enter,  or  go  into  her  Majesty's  service,  or  any  other 
service  during  the  said  term. 

Leithead  doth  hereby  covenant,  promise  and  agree 
to  and  with  the  said  Henry  Watt  the  apprentice, 
that  the  said  James  Leithead,  his  executors,  admin- 
istrators, or  assigns,  shall  and  will  teach,  learn, 
and  inform  him,  the  said  apprentice,  or  cause  him 
to  be  taught,  learned,  and  informed  in  the  art,  trade, 
or  business  of  a  MARINER,  or  SEAMAN,  with 
the  circumstance  thereunto  belonging  ;  and  shall 
and  will  find  and  provide  for  the  said  apprentice 
sufficient  meat,  drink,  and  lodging ;  and  to  pay 
unto  him  the  sum  of  twelve  shillings  yearly  during 
the  said  term  in  lieu  of  washing  ;  and  also  pay  unto 

THE    CALL  OF   NEPTUNE        39 

him  the  sum  of  FORTY  EIGHT  POUNDS,  of 
lawful  money,  current  in  Great  Britain,  in  manner 
following  (that  is  to  say)  the  sum  of  Five  pounds 
ten  shillings  for  the  first  year,  Six  pounds  ten  shil- 
lings for  the  second  year,  Seven  pounds  ten  shillings 
for  the  third  year,  Eight  pounds  ten  shillings  for  the 
fourth  year,  Nine  pounds  ten  shillings  for  the  fifth 
year,  and  Ten  pounds  ten  shillings  for  the  sixth  and 
last  year,  and  if  the  said  apprentice  serve  his  time 
faithfully  the  said  James  Leithead  doth  agree  to  pay 
him  the  sum  of  Three  pounds  for  so  doing.  And 
that  the  said  James  Leithead  shall  pay  for  the  Meat 
Drink  and  Lodging  of  the  said  apprentice  when  in 
the  harbour  of  Sunderland  at  the  rate  of  eight  shil- 
lings per  week,  the  said  Henry  Watt  finding  and 
providing  himself  with  all  manner  of  sea-bedding, 
wearing  apparel,  and  other  necessaries.  And  it  is 
hereby  agreed  between  the  said  parties  that  the  said 
James  Leithead,  his  executors  or  administrators, 
shall  and  may,  from  time  to  time  during  the  said 
term,  deduct  and  retain  out  of  the  several  yearly 
payments  above  mentioned,  all  such  sum  or  sums 
of  money  as  he  or  they  shall  at  any  time  during  the 
said  term  disburse  or  lay  out  in  the  buying  of  any 
apparel,  sea-bedding,  or  other  necessaries  for  the 
apprentice,  as  need  shall  require. 
AND  for  the  true  performance  of  all  and  singular 
the  covenants  and  agreements  aforesaid,  each  of 
them,  the  said  Henry  Watt  and  James  Leithead 
doth  hereby  bind  and  oblige  himself,  his  heirs,  ex- 

4o        LIFE  OF   HARRY  WATTS 

ecutors,  and  administrators,  unto  the  other  of  them, 
his  executors  and  administrators  in  the  penal  sum 
of  One  Hundred  Pounds  of  lawful  money,  current 
in  Great  Britain,  firmly  by  these  presents. 
IN  WITNESS  whereof  the  said  parties  to  these 
presents  have  hereunto  set  their  hands  and  seals 
the  day  and  year  first  above  written. 

Signed,  sealed,  and  delivered  by  the 

above  named  in  the  presence  of* 


INDENTURE    No.    2. 

Custom  House, 


2 7 'th  June,  i8jg. 

This  Indenture  has  been  REGISTERED  per  Act  5  &  6 
WILLIAM  IV.,  Ch.  ig. 

"  LENA"  299  Tons. 
Dated  20th  June  1839. 

INDENTURE  of  Apprenticeship  for  seven  years. 



*  This  Indenture,  though  duly  registered,  is  unsigned. 

THE    CALL  OF   NEPTUNE        41 


1st   year    . 

^4    15      0 

2nd    do. 

^5      5      0 

3rd    do. 

£5    15      O 

4th    do. 

•         &     5     0 

5th    do.      . 


6th     do.      . 

£7  15     0 

7th    do.      . 

•         £B     5     0 

12s.  a  year  in  lieu  of  washing  ; 
8s.  per  week  for  meat  money. 



THIS  INDENTURE  made  the  twentieth  day  of 
June  in  the  third  year  of  the  Reign  of  our  Sovereign 
Lady  Victoria  by  the  Grace  of  God,  of  the  United 
Queen,  Defender  of  the  Faith,  and  in  the  Year  of 
our  Lord  One  Thousand  Eight  Hundred  and  Thirty 
Nine.  BETWEEN  Henry  Watt  son  of  William 
Watt  of  Sunderland  near  the  sea  in  the  County  of 
Durham  aged  thirteen  years  of  the  One  Part,  and 
James  Leithead  of  the  Parish  of  Bishopwearmouth 
in  the  same  County  Ship  Owner  of  the  Other  Part, 
WITNESSETH,  that  the  said  Henry  Watt  hath  of 
his  free  will,  and  with  the  consent  of  his  father  put 
and  bound  himself  Apprentice  unto  the  said  James 
Leithead  with  him,  his  Executors,  and  Administra- 

42         LIFE    OF  HARRY  WATTS 

tors,  after  the  Manner  of  an  Apprentice,  to  dwell, 
remain,  and  serve,  from  the  fifteenth  day  of  June 
instant  for,  and  during,  and  unto  the  full  end  and 
term  of  seven  years  from  thence  next  ensuing,  fully 
to  be  complete  and  ended  ;  during  all  which  term 
the  said  Apprentice  his  said  master  will  well  and 
faithfully  serve,  his  secrets  keep,  his  lawful  com- 
mands everywhere  do  and  execute,  hurt  or  damage 
to  his  said  master  he  will  not  do,  consent  to,  or 
allow  to  be  done  by  others,  but  to  the  utmost  of  his 
Power  will  hinder  the  same,  and  forthwith  his  said 
master  thereof  warn.  Taverns  or  Alehouses  he 
will  not  frequent,  unless  about  his  said  Master's 
business.  At  Dice,  Cards,  Tables,  Bowls,  or  any 
other  unlawful  Games,  he  will  not  play.  The  Goods 
of  his  said  Master  he  will  not  embezzle,  or  waste, 
or  lend,  or  give  to  any  Person  or  Persons,  without 
his  said  Master's  License.  Matrimony  during  the 
said  term  he  will  not  contract;  nor  from  the  Service 
of  his  said  Master  without  his  consent  at  any  time 
absent  himself;  but  as  a  true  and  faithful  Appren- 
tice will  demean  and  behave  himself  towards  his 
said  Master,  his  Family,  Executors,  and  Adminis- 
trators during  the  said  term  ;  and  true  and  just 
accounts  of  his  said  Master's  Goods,  Chattels,  and 
Money  committed  to  his  charge  or  which  shall  come 
to  his  hands  faithfully  he  will  give  at  all  times 
when  thereunto  required  by  his  Master,  his  Execu- 
tors, or  Administrators.  And  will  also  render  an 
account  of  and  well  and  truly  pay  or  cause  to  be 

THE    CALL   OF    NEPTUNE        43 

paid  unto  his  said  Master,  his  Executors,  or 
Administrators,  all  such  wages,  prize-money,  and 
other  SUM  or  SUMS  of  money  as  shall  become 
due  and  payable  unto  him  from  Her  Majesty,  her 
Heirs,  or  successors,  or  any  other  Person,  in  case 
he  shall  be  impressed,  enter,  or  go  into  Her 
Majesty's  Service  or  any  other  service  during  the 
said  term. 

IN  CONSIDERATION  whereof  the  said  James 
Leithead  doth  hereby  covenant,  promise  and  agree 
to  and  with  the  said  Henry  Watt  the  Apprentice, 
that  he  the  said  James  Leithead,  his  Executors, 
Administrators,  or  Assigns,  shall  and  will  teach, 
learn,  and  inform  him  the  said  Apprentice,  or  cause 
him  to  be  taught,  learned,  and  informed  in  the  Art, 
Trade,  or  Business  of  a  Mariner  or  Seaman  with 
the  circumstance  thereunto  belonging.  And  shall 
and  will  find  and  provide  for  the  said  Apprentice 
sufficient  Meat,  Drink,  and  Lodging,  and  pay  unto 
him  the  Sum  of  twelve  shillings  yearly  during  the 
said  term  in  lieu  of  washing,  and  also  pay  unto  him 
the  Sum  of  Forty  Five  Pounds  of  lawful  money 
current  in  GREAT  BRITAIN  in  manner  following 
(that  is  to  say)  four  pounds  fifteen  shillings  for  the 
first  year,  five  pounds  five  shillings  for  the  second 
year,  five  pounds  fifteen  shillings  for  the  third  year, 
six  pounds  five  shillings  for  the  fourth  year,  seven 
pounds  for  the  fifth  year,  seven  pounds  fifteen 
shillings  for  the  sixth  year,  and  eight  pounds  five 
shillings   for   the   seventh   year.      The   said   Henry 

44        LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

Watt  finding  and  providing  himself  with  all  Manner 
of  Sea  Bedding,  Wearing  Apparel,  and  other  neces- 
saries. And  it  is  hereby  agreed  between  the  said 
parties  that  the  said  James  Leithead,  his  Executors, 
or  Administrators  shall  and  may  from  time  to  time 
during  the  said  term  deduct  and  retain  out  of  the 
several  yearly  Payments  above  mentioned  all  such 
Sum  or  Sums  of  money  as  he  or  they  shall  at  any 
time  during  the  said  term  disburse  or  lay  out  in  the 
buying  of  any  Apparel,  Sea  Bedding,  or  other 
necessaries  for  the  Apprentice  as  need  shall  require. 
And  for  the  true  performance  of  all  and  singular 
the  Covenants  and  Agreements  aforesaid,  each  of 
them,  the  said  Henry  Watt  and  James  Leithead 
doth  hereby  bind  and  oblige  himself,  his  Heirs, 
Executors,  and  Administrators  in  the  Penal  Sum  of 
One  Hundred  Pounds  of  lawful  money  current  in 
GREAT  BRITAIN  firmly  by  these  presents. 
IN  WITNESS  whereof  the  said  parties  to  these 
presents  have  hereunto  set  their  hands  and  seals 
the  day  and  year  first  above  written. 

The  mark 
HENRY  X  WATT.         seal. 

JAMES  LEITHEAD.        seal. 

Signed,  sealed,  and  delivered  by  the 
above  named  parties  in  the  presence  of 

JOSH   RIDLEY,   Solr.,   Bpwth. 
JOHN  X  HOPKIN'S  mark. 

THE   CALL  OF  NEPTUNE        45 

The  said  James  Leithead  doth  agree  to  pay 
to  the  said  Apprentice  the  further  sum  of 
Five  Pounds  if  the  said  Apprentice  do 
faithfully  serve  his  Apprenticeship. 

Queen  Victoria  having  succeeded  to  the  throne 
on  June  20th,  1837,  the  19th  of  June,  1839, 
would  be  the  last  day  of  the  second  year  of  her 
reign,  and  the  20th  of  June,  1839,  when  the 
second  Indenture  was  signed,  the  first  day  of 
the  third  year  of  her  reign,  so  that  there  is  no 
discrepancy  here.  But  why  the  boy  should  be 
said  to  be  fifteen  years  old  on  the  19th  of  June 
and  thirteen  years  old  on  the  20th,  I  cannot  dis- 
cover ;  nor  why  he  is  bound  for  six  years  in  the 
one  case  and  seven  years  in  the  other.  It  will 
also  be  noticed  that  there  is  no  "  s  "  to  the  name 
in  either  case  ;  this  is  a  mistake,  as  the  correct 
name  is  Watts. 

As  to  the  age,  as  a  matter  of  fact  neither 
of  the  Indentures  is  correct,  for  the  date  of  his 
birth  being  satisfactorily  established  as  June 
15th,  1826,  he  would  be  in  his  fourteenth  year 
on  June  19th,  1839. 

There  are  other  contradictions  in  dates,  but 
no   further  reference    will    be    made    to   them. 

46         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

Where  dates  are  given,  every  effort  has  been 
made  to  verify  them,  and  they  may  be  taken  as 

Young  Harry  Watts  sailed  away,  then,  in  the 
brig  "  Lena"  to  Quebec  on  his  first  voyage  just 
when  he  had  entered  his  fourteenth  year.  His 
last  duty  before  leaving  was  to  go  and  say 
"Good-bye"  to  his  father,  a  last  good-bye  as  it 
proved  to  be,  for  his  father,  who  was  then  but 
fifty-three,  died  before  Henry  arrived  home 
again.  He  was  very  ill  when  the  lad  went  to 
see  him,  and  his  last  words  to  him  were,  "Good- 
bye Harry,  I  don't  think  I  shall  live  to  see  thee 
any  more.  Be  a  good  boy  and  serve  your  ap- 
prenticeship well." 

And  so  the  lad  set  out  on  his  adventures  with 
a  heavy  heart  after  all,  instead  of  a  light  one. 

A  sailor's  life  in  those  days  was  a  rough  one 
indeed.  "A  dog's  life,"  says  Harry;  yet, 
strange  to  say,  rough  as  the  men  were  they 
took  every  care  of  this  boy,  and  saw  that  he 
was  well  provided  for  according  to  their  means, 
their  kindness  being  ascribed  by  Harry  to  the 
fact  that  they  were  Sunderland  men  and  knew 
how  the  family  was  situated. 

THE    CALL  OF   NEPTUNE        47 

It  is  interesting  to  note  that  the  wages  of  sea- 
men in  those  days  were  £2  10s.  to  £2  15s.  a 
month  for  a  voyage  to  America. 

When  the  "  Lena  "  arrived  at  Quebec  the  men 
went  ashore  and  "all  got  drunk  as  usual,"  and 
as  a  consequence  were  put  into  gaol. 

In  explanation  of  this  the  reader  must  re- 
member the  condition  of  things  then.  Tem- 
perance was  a  new  thing,  and  total  abstinence 
a  much  greater  novelty  still.  Father  Mathew, 
in  Ireland,  was  just  beginning  his  great  work 
in  the  cause  of  temperance  ;  and  the  teetotal 
movement,  originated  in  Preston  in  1833,  was 
trying,  but  not  very  successfully,  to  fight  its 
way  into  public  favour.  Indeed,  at  this  time 
and  for  many  years  afterwards,  teetotallers  were 
looked  upon  as  foolish  fanatics  whose  main  de- 
sire was  to  "rob  the  poor  man  of  his  beer." 
The  reader  is  asked  to  remember  this  when  we 
come  to  deal  with  a  later  phase  of  Henry's  life. 

The  crew  of  the  "  Lena"  being  all  drunk  and 
in  gaol,  it  fell  to  the  lot  of  Harry  and  his  fellow 
apprentice,  a  boy  named  Nicholson,  to  take  the 
men's  dinners  to  them.  While  going  from  the 
ship  to  the  quay  Nicholson  fell  overboard  and 

48         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

was  in  imminent  danger  of  being  drowned,  when 
Harry,  who  was  following,  seeing  his  danger, 
immediately  jumped  over  after  him,  and  swam 
with  him  to  a  raft  of  timber — the  first  of  the 
long  list  of  lives  saved  by  him. 

When  the  "  Lena  "  arrived  in  London  from 
Quebec,  Henry  learnt  of  the  death  of  his 
father,  and  the  captain,  who  broke  the  sad 
news  to  him,  told  him  that  his  two  sisters  and 
his  brother  James  were  now  homeless. 

11  Ay  dearie  me,  sir,"  said  Henry  in  great  dis- 
tress, "  canna'  we  send  'em  somethin'  oot  o'  my 
bit  savins  ?"  and  this  was  done. 

His  second  voyage  was  in  the  "Cowen,"  be- 
longing to  Messrs.  Leithead  and  Spence,  of  Sun- 
derland, Captain  Luckley.  While  at  Miramichi 
the  captain  went  to  buy  a  canoe.  In  coming 
off  with  it  he  had  nearly  reached  the  ship  when 
the  canoe  upset,  and  the  captain  was  in  danger 
of  being  drowned.  Harry  Watts  was  waiting 
at  the  side  of  the  ship  to  receive  the  skipper, 
and  as  soon  as  he  saw  Capt.  Luckley  struggling 
in  the  water,  he  picked  up  the  end  of  a  rope 
and  jumped  overboard,  swam  to  the  captain, 
fastened  the  rope  round  him,  and  helped  him  to 

THE   CALL  OF    NEPTUNE        49 

the  ladder  which  was  hanging  over  the  ship's 

The  voyage  of  the  u  Cowen  "  lasted  about 
three  months,  and  then  Harry  went  to  the  ship 
"  James,"  coasting  in  her  for  a  few  months, 
no  incident  of  importance  happening  during 
this  time. 

But  when  he  was  just  past  his  eighteenth 
year,  towards  the  end  of  1844,  ne  was  m  a  ship 
called  the  " United  Kingdom,"  Captain  Wallace, 
and  on  the  voyage  home  from  Quebec  to  New- 
castle with  a  cargo  of  timber,  the  ship  was  caught 
in  a  heavy  gale  in  the  Pentland  Firth.  The 
Firth  was  running  like  a  mill  race,  and  the  sea 
"boiling  like  a  kail  pot."  There  was,  as  usual, 
a  big  deck  cargo,  and  during  the  storm  a  huge 
sea  broke  on  board,  lifted  the  deck  cargo  up 
and  over,  and  a  boy  named  George  Watson  with 
it.  The  lad  would  assuredly  have  been  drowned, 
for  there  was  no  chance  of  lowering  a  boat  in 
such  a  sea,  but  Harry,  seeing  the  danger,  seized 
a  rope,  jumped  after  the  lad,  and  after  a  despe- 
rate tussle  with  wind  and  water  succeeded  in 
bringing  him  aboard.  The  boy  George  Watson, 
it  is  interesting  to  know,  was  the  father  of  the 

50         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

present  Councillor  Watson,  and  he  left  a  testi- 
mony to  the  bravery  of  the  act  which  saved  his 

Captain  Wallace,  the  Master  of  the  "  United 
Kingdom,"  came  to  a  sad  end,  being  murdered 
in  a  most  cowardly  manner.  Mr.  Watts  tells 
how  Captain  Wallace,  having  become  a  North 
Sea  Pilot,  was  about  to  take  a  ship  out  from 
Sunderland,  when  hearing  a  dispute  between 
the  captain  and  a  seaman,  he  interfered.  This 
so  enraged  the  seaman  that  he  followed  Wallace 
and  stabbed  him  in  the  back,  killing  him.  For 
this  act  the  man  was  tried  and  hanged. 

Young  Watts's  next  ship  was  the  "Protector." 
While  lying  at  Woolwich  (1845),  Harry  was 
working  in  the  fore  part  of  the  ship,  when  a 
barge  loaded  with  sand  was  seen  to  capsize 
suddenly,  and  the  two  men  belonging  to  her 
were  thrown  into  the  water.  Jumping  into  his 
ship's  boat,  Harry  pulled  to  the  men  and  arrived 
in  time  to  save  them  both. 

"  Did  you  get  any  reward  for  these  doings, 
Harry?"  he  was  asked  as  he,  by  request,  told 
the  story  of  the  rescue. 

THE    CALL  OF   NEPTUNE        51 

"Rewaard  !"  he  exclaimed  with  astonishment, 
11  wey,  sartinlees  nut ;  nivver  thowt  o'  sich  a 
thing.  But  we  helped  the  two  men  wi'  dry 
claes  an'  things." 

Thus  at  the  age  of  nineteen  he  had  already 
saved  five  lives.  And  here  we  must  interrupt 
the  record  of  life-saving  to  consider  a  fresh 
phase  of  his  career. 



We  should  marry  to  please  ourselves,  not  other  people. 

— Isaac  Bickerstaff. 

IN  the  latter  part  of  1846,  when  he  had  just 
turned  twenty  and  was  only  a  few  months 
out  of  his  apprenticeship,  Henry  Watts  married 
his  first'wife,  Rebecca  Smith,  who  was  the  same 
age  as  himself. 

Before  the  reader  begins  to  denounce  this 
early  marriage  as  a  foolish  and  improvident  act, 
let  him  consider  the  circumstances  of  the  case. 
Both  these  young  people  were  orphans,  and 
neither  of  them  had  a  home.  Therefore  they 
could  not  be  much  worse  off  in  any  case,  and 
as  the  chance  of  being  better  off  for  many 
years  to  come  was  extremely  problematical,  they 
decided  to  marry,  their  only  fortune  being  youth 
and  good  health. 

They  set  up  house  in  King's  Entry,  in  Silver 
Street,    "  wi'  scarcely  a  thing    ti   put   into   it," 


said  Harry.     They  had  very  little  to  begin  with, 
but  such  as  they  had  they  made  the  best  of. 

Asked  as  to  the  marriage  customs  of  the  time, 
he  said,  "What  wes  the  merriage  customs?  Wey, 
aw  divvent  remember  ony  except  that  we  used 
te  gan  ti  chorch  linked  arm-an-arm,  half-a-dozen 
couples,  mevies  ;  an'  when  the  merriage  wes 
ower  we'd  aal  gan  hyam  an1  get  drunk.  Aye, 
things  wes  bad  i'  them  days  ;  ignorant  we  wes 
an*  didn't  knaw  ony  better." 

Notwithstanding,   Henry  and  his  wife  lived 
happily  enough,  and  it  may  be  said  here  that, 
her  devotion   to   him   really  cost  her  her  life. 
The  incident,  though  out  of  chronological  order, 
may  be  fitly  related  here. 

They  had  been  married  a  little  over  ten  years, 
and  Henry  was  returning  from  London  to  Sun- 
derland in  the  ship  "  John  Murray,"  when  they 
ran  into  a  gale  of  wind  off  Sunderland.  The 
captain  tried  to  run  for  the  harbour,  but  when 
about  to  enter,  thought  that  there  would  not  be 
enough  water  on  the  bar,  so  he  turned  the  ship 
about  to  go  out  again  and  stand  off.  But  the 
cargo  shifted,  so  the  ship  was  run  ashore  not 
far  from  the  South  Pier.      The  crew  were  all 

54         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

taken  off  by  the  life-boat.  Henry's  wife  was 
present  and  helped  to  launch  the  life-boat,  and 
seeing  her  husband  in  the  boat  as  it  made  for 
the  shore,  she  ran  into  the  water  and  stood  there 
up  to  her  waist  ready  to  receive  him.  The  ex- 
posure and  cold  brought  on  an  illness  which  de- 
veloped into  consumption,  from  which  she  died. 


BACK    TO    THE    SEA. 

Ye  gentlemen  of  England, 

Who  live  at  home  at  ease, 
Ah,  little  do  you  think  upon 
The  dangers  of  the  seas. 

— Martin  Parker. 

THE  circumstances  of  the  young  married 
couple  were  such  as  to  preclude  all  idea 
of  a  honeymoon.  From  the  first  their  attention 
had  to  be  given  to  the  cares  and  responsibilities 
of  housekeeping,  without  any  interval  of  rest. 

Henry  shipped  before  the  mast,  and  in  1847 
was  in  a  vessel  called  the  "  Express,"  Captain 
Booth,  and  went  with  her  to  Rotterdam.  While 
lying  there  six  foreign  seamen  were  in  a  boat 
working  at  their  ship  which  lay  not  far  from  the 
"  Express."  The  ship's  anchor  was  hanging  at 
the  cathead,  ready  to  be  dropped  or  brought  in- 
board as  might  be  required.  Just  as  the  boat 
containing  the  six  men   came  underneath   the 

56         LIFE    OF    HARRY  WATTS 

anchor,  the  rope  that  held  it  broke,  and  it  fell 
on  the  stern  of  the  boat,  smashing  it  like  an 
eggshell  and  throwing  the  men  in  all  directions. 

Harry,  who  saw  the  accident,  gave  a  shout  to 
the  mate  of  his  ship,  then  leapt  over  the  side 
into  the  boat  which  was  lying  there,  and  reached 
the  struggling  men  in  time  to  save  them  all — a 
feat  which  only  those  who  have  had  a  sea  train- 
ing can  fully  appreciate. 

At  the  end  of  this  voyage  he  determined  to 
have  a  spell  ashore,  so  from  1847  to  1852  he 
spent  most  of  his  time  working  as  a  rigger,  or 
on  the  Quay  and  the  river,  getting  anything  to 
do  he  could. 

A  complete  list  of  the  lives  saved  by  Mr. 
Watts  is  given  at  the  end  of  the  book,  and  it  is 
not  necessary  therefore  to  give  in  detail  any  but 
those  cases  which  have  in  them  something  out  of 
the  common.  Here  are  three  such  cases,  and 
these,  as  it  happens,  come  in  chronological  order 
after  the  rescue  of  the  six  men  at  Rotterdam. 

One  Sunday  afternoon  in  1852  Henry  was 
walking  along  the  South  Pier,  when  he  saw  a 
crowd  of  men  gathered  at  one  spot.  Hurrying 
there  he  found  to  his  dismay  that  a  boy  named 

BACK    TO   THE    SEA  57 

Paul  was  in  the  water  on  the  far  side  of  the 
pier.  No  one  was  doing  anything  to  save 
the  lad,  and  as  soon  as  Harry  came  up,  without 
a  moment's  hesitation  he  dived  into  the  sea  and 
swam  to  the  boy.  The  sea  was  very  strong  at 
the  time,  and  when  Henry  reached  the  shore 
with  his  burden,  both  he  and  the  boy  were  in 
the  last  stage  of  exhaustion. 

The  next  day  he  called  at  the  boy's  home,  a 
house  opposite  Flag  Lane,  to  inquire  after  him. 
A  big,  robust  woman  came  to  the  door,  and 
when  he  told  her  that  he  had  rescued  the 
lad,  and  had  called  to  see  how  he  was  after  his 
narrow  escape,  she  looked  him  up  and  down 
and  said,  "Oh,  wey,  that's  nowt,  canny  man; 
he's  bin  owerboard  mony  a  time  !"  and  promptly 
shut  the  door  in  his  face. 

Later  in  the  same  year  Harry  was  working 
on  board  the  ship  "  John  Muller,"  which  was 
lying  abreast  of  Smurthwaite's  Wharf  Float- 
ing lazily  down  the  river  and  near  to  the  ship 
was  a  boat  containing  an  old  couple — Mattie 
and  Jeanie  Grey,  who  gained  a  living  by  bring- 
ing sandstone  down  from  Hylton  in  their  boat. 
Harry  was  at  work  in  the  after  part  of  the  ship 

58         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

when  he  heard  a  cry  of  "  Man  overboard  !"  a 
boy  named  Maughan  having  fallen  into  the 
river.  As  soon  as  Harry  heard  the  cry  and 
saw  the  boy  he  jumped  on  to  the  taffrail  and 
into  the  water.  As  he  struck  the  water  he 
made  a  considerable  splash,  for  he  had  jumped 
a  distance  of  twenty  feet  or  more,  and  as  he  had 
gone  in  near  to  Mattie  and  Jeanie's  boat  they 
got  rather  wet.  When  he  came  to  the  surface 
with  the  boy  he  swam  to  the  boat,  and  catching 
hold  of  the  gunwale  with  one  hand  he  said, 
"  For  goodness  sake  tak'  haad  o'  the  boy,  aw's 
nearly  duen  !" 

Now,  Jeanie  was  a  "tartar,"  and  picking  up 
a  shovel  she  held  it  aloft  exclaiming,  "  Ye,  Harry 
Watts !  For  two  pins  aw'd  split  thee  skull  wi' 
this  shool !  Thoo's  fair  drooned  beyth  me  an' 
oor  Mattie." 

However,  on  this  occasion,  Jeanie's  bark  was 
worse  than  her  bite,  for  as  soon  as  she  saw  that 
Harry  and  the  boy  really  were  exhausted, 
she  helped  them  into  the  boat  and  put  them 
ashore.  It  is  interesting  to  note  that  this  same 
boy,  Maughan,  was  afterwards  the  means  of 
saving  a  number  of  lives  at  Sierra   Leone. 

YE    HARRY    WATTS  !    FOR    TWO    PINS   AWD    SPLIT    THEE    SKULL 
Wl'    THIS   SHOOI.!" 

BACK   TO    THE    SEA  59 

So  far  Henry  had  saved  fourteen  lives,  and 
the  fifteenth  rescue  was  in  1854,  when,  with 
much  difficulty,  he  brought  a  young  woman 
ashore  who  had  attempted  to  commit  suicide 
in  the  sea  at  Hendon.  As  soon  as  she  regain- 
ed power  of  speech  she  exclaimed,  "  Oh,  let  me 
be  in!  let  me  be  in!"  "Not  I,"  said  Harry, 
"  I've  hed  ower  much  trubbel  ti  get  thee  oot." 
Nixon  Donkin,  a  river  policeman,  coming  up, 
took  the  young  woman  in  charge  and  went  with 
her  to  the  house  of  the  lighthouse  keeper,  where 
she  got  a  change  of  clothing.  Next  day  she 
was  charged  at  the  Police  Court  with  attempt- 
ing to  commit  suicide,  Henry  being  forced  to 
give  evidence,  but  ultimately  she  was  discharged. 

And  here  is  an  incident  which  is  characteris- 
tic of  the  man.  Soon  after  his  first  wife's  death 
he  was  in  the  brig  "  Susannah,"  Captain  Ward, 
and  had  with  him  a  little  fancy  dog  of  which  he 
thought  a  great  deal,  as  it  had  belonged  to  his 
wife.  It  was  in  October,  and  the  ship  was  com- 
ing through  Yarmouth  Roads  with  foretopmast 
studdingsails  set,  when  the  little  dog  fell  over- 
board. The  skipper  gave  the  order  to  get  the 
studdingsails  down,  heave  the  ship  to  and  lower 

60         LIFE   OF    HARRY   WATTS 

a  boat,  "and  let's  see,"  said  he,  "if  we  cannot 
save  Harry's  dog." 

Some  of  the  men  began  to  grumble  at  all 
this  work  for  the  sake  of  a  dog,  and  as  they 
went  slowly  about  the  work  Harry  heard  them 
grumbling.  "  Ay,  dinna  fash  yersels,  hinnies," 
said  he,  "aw'll  save  ye  ony  mair  trubbel,"  and 
without  more  ado  he  sprang  into  the  sea  after 
his  dog ! 

The  men,  astonished,  now  worked  briskly 
enough,  got  the  ship  round  and  a  boat  lowered, 
and  Henry,  who  had  succeeded  in  reaching  the 
dog,  was  brought  on  board  much  exhausted  but 
with  his  pet  safe  in  his  arms. 

One  of  the  men  who  had  grumbled  about 
lowering  the  boat,  afterwards  wrote  the  follow- 
ing letter  to  Henry,  who  preserved  it  in  his 
Journal : — 


October  15th,  1875. 

About  nineteen  years  ago,  as  I  was  coming 
through  Yarmouth  Roads  in  the  brig  "  Susannah," 
Captain  Ward,  we  had  a  little  dog  belonging  to 
Harry  Watts.  Ship  going  at  about  four  knots  at 
the  time  it  fell  overboard.  Watts  made  no  hesita- 
tion but  jumped  overboard  for  the  dog,   over  the 

BACK   TO   THE    SEA  61 

stem.  They  rounded  the  ship  to  by  the  captain's 
orders  to  get  Watts  on  board  of  the  ship  again. 
When  he  got  to  the  ship  he  was  very  much  ex- 
hausted, but  he  had  saved  the  dog. 

George  Lamb. 

The  saving  of  the  boy  at  Wapping  Dock  and 
the  long  illness  Henry  suffered,  as  a  consequence 
of  swallowing  the  poisonous  water,  belong,  in 
point  of  time,  to  this  period,  but  these  have 
been  related  in  the  opening  chapter.  Before 
he  finally  left  the  sea  and  went  to  work  for  the 
River  Wear  Commissioners,  he  had  saved  two 
other  lives  in  addition  to  those  already  recorded, 
one,  a  young  girl  at  Cardiff,  and  the  other  a  coal 
trimmer  named  Richard  Smith,  who  fell  into  the 
dock  at  Sunderland. 

During  his  sea  voyaging  Harry  three  times 
suffered  shipwreck.  The  first  time  was  in 
the  "John  Murray,"  the  particulars  of  which 
are  given  in  a  previous  chapter;  and  the  second 
time  was  in  the  "  Elizabeth  Jane,"  a  ship  be- 
longing to  a  Mr.  Thompson,  draper,  of  Sun- 
derland, Captain  Ferguson  Golden.  This  ship 
ran  ashore  on  Yarmouth  Sands  and  remained 
there  all  night.      There  was  a  very  heavy  sea 

62         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

running  and  the  ship  was  in  great  danger  of 
going  to  pieces,  but  was  got  off  the  following 

On  the  third  occasion  the  wreck  was  com- 
plete. He  was  in  the  ship  "  Balmoral  Castle," 
of  Sunderland,  Captain  George  Wardle,  and 
the  ship  drove  ashore  in  a  heavy  gale  at  Lowes- 
toft, there  being  some  twenty  or  thirty  ships  all 
ashore  there  at  the  same  time.  The  crew  were 
all  saved  by  the  life-boat  and  sent  home  by  the 
Shipwrecked  Fishermen  and  Mariners'  Society. 

For  some  time  it  was  impossible  to  fix  the 
date  when  Henry  left  the  sea  and  went  into  the 
service  of  the  River  Wear  Commissioners,  but 
at  length,  when  examining  some  old  papers 
which  Henry  had  preserved,  one  was  found 
which  satisfactorily  settled  the  question.  It  is  a 
certificate  of  discharge  from  the  brig  "  Martha," 
of  Sunderland,  and  shows  that  Harry  Watts 
served  on  board  her  from  August  19th,  to 
November  19th,  1861,  and  it  is  signed  by 
Thomas  Cook,  Master.  This  was  his  last 
voyage  as  a  mariner. 

He  was  therefore  in  his  thirty-sixth  year  when 
he  left  the  sea  and  began  his  career  as  a  diver, 

BACK   TO   THE    SEA  63 

a  career  which  provided  adventures  even  more 
exciting  than  his  sea  life  had  done,  and  gave 
him,  too,  more  opportunities  of  serving  his  fel- 
low men. 

Up  to  this  time,  then,  Mr.  Watts  had  saved 
seventeen  lives,  and  the  absence,  from  these 
pages,  of  any  word  of  public  recognition  of 
such  invaluable  services  is  not  due  to  an  over- 
sight on  the  part  of  the  biographer.  The 
oversight  was  on  the  part  of  those  among 
whom  he  lived  and  worked,  and  who  were 
either  too  slow  to  recognise  such  bravery  and 
self-sacrifice,  or  too  indifferent  to  consider  it 
worthy  of  notice.  But  whatever  the  cause 
the  fact  remains  that  (with  the  exception  of 
a  small  certificate),  there  was  not  the  least 
recognition  of  his  services  till  he  had  saved 
no  fewer  than  twenty-five  lives,  and  then  the  re- 
cognition came  from  a  local  swimming  club ! 
This  was  in  1868,  when  he  was  in  his  forty- 
second  year,  and  he  had  been  risking  his  own 
life  to  save  others  since  he  was  fourteen.  Such 
neglect,  such  indifference  to  heroic  services  in 
the  cause  of  humanity,  is  probably  without  a 

64         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

To  a  man  actuated  by  any  other  than  the 
highest  motive,  this  lack  of  appreciation  would 
surely  have  acted  as  a  deterrent  in  this  humane 
work,  but  greatly  to  Mr.  Watts's  credit  he  con- 
tinued that  work,  and  again  and  again,  and  yet 
again,  risked  his  own  life  to  save  others.  And 
the  risk  was  by  no  means  imaginary  or  remote, 
as  anyone  who  doubts  that  statement  may  easily 
discover.  Let  him  choose  some  fine  day  and 
under  the  most  favourable  circumstances  make 
the  experiment  of  jumping  overboard,  without 
divesting  himself  of  any  of  his  clothing.  Even 
if  an  expert  swimmer,  he  will  find  it  no  easy 
matter  to  keep  himself  afloat,  without  having  to 
render  assistance  to  others. 

But,  suppose  he  is  wearing  the  thick,  heavy 
clothing  of  those  who  work  on  the  water,  and 
in  addition  a  pair  of  heavy  sea-boots,  and 
thus  dressed  he  jumps  from  a  height  of  twenty 
feet  into  the  river  to  rescue  a  drowning  boy. 
And  suppose  the  boy,  with  the  desperation  of  a 
drowning  person,  grips  him  round  the  legs  like 
an  octopus,  thus  paralyzing  all  his  movements, 
what  then  ?  The  boy  struggles  with  him  as  he 
drags  him  down,  his  chest  seems  bursting  for 

BACK   TO   THE    SEA  65 

want  of  air,  dreadful  noises  are  singing  in  his 
ears.  Down  he  goes  into  the  muddy  depths, 
and  slowly  he  rises  again.  When  he  reaches 
the  surface  there  is  barely  time  for  him  to  gasp 
for  breath  before  he  is  dragged  under  once  more, 
still  trying,  but  in  vain,  to  loosen  that  deadly 
grip  from  his  legs Under  such  circum- 
stances one  will  begin  to  realize  that  the  risk  to 
the  rescuer  is  very  real  and  very  great. 

The  above  is  no  imaginary  case ;  it  is 
what  actually  happened  to  Mr.  Watts  on  one 
particular  occasion,  and  what,  with  slightly 
altered  details,  happened  to  him  often.  But 
of  this  more  hereafter. 



This  was  the  first  time  I  could  say,  i?i  the  true  sense  of  the 
words,  that  I  prayed  in  all  my  life.  .  .  .  Now  I  looked 
back  upon  my  past  life  with  such  horror  and  my  sins 
appeared  so  dreadful,  that  my  soul  sought  nothing  of 
God  but  discharge  fro?n  the  load  that  bore  down  all  my 
comfort. — Defoe's  "Robinson  Crusoe." 

AT  the  time  of  writing  Mr.  Watts  is  in  his 
jT\.  eighty-fifth  year,  and  if  he  were  asked  to 
name  the  most  important  event  in  that  long  life, 
he  would  without  hesitation  say  it  was  his  con- 
version to  Christianity. 

This  important  episode  in  his  career  which, 
in  point  of  time,  should  have  been  dealt  with 
before,  has  been  kept  back  in  order  not  to  break 
the  continuity  of  the  story  of  his  life  at  sea,  and 
we  must  now  go  back  a  few  years  and  give  some 
account  of  it. 

Mr.  Watts  was  converted,  that  is  to  say  he 
became  a  professing,  believing,  and  active  Chris- 


tian,  on  January  2nd,  T857.  About  this  date 
he  has  no  doubt  whatever.  Like  many  other 
events  in  his  life,  his  enlistment  as  a  soldier  in 
the  Army  of  Christ,  was  altogether  out  of  the 

Now,  the  Atheist  may  sneer  at  the  statements 
to  be  made  in  this  chapter,  the  Agnostic  will, 
perhaps,  shrug  his  shoulders  and  smile  tolerant- 
ly, and  the  educated  Indifferentist  curl  his  lip 
and  exclaim  "Absurd!"  But  none  of  these 
methods  will  dispose  of  the  facts  in  the  case  : 
facts  which  are  indisputable  and  not  to  be 
sneered  at  or  shrugged  out  of  the  way  :  which 
facts  it  is  the  duty  of  the  unbiassed  biographer 
to  place  on  record.  Theories  are  well  enough 
in  their  way,  but  an  ounce  of  fact  is  worth  a 
ton  of  theory,  and  the  main  facts  in  this  case 
are,  at  the  time  of  writing,  patent  to  everyone 
and  past  all  denial. 

At  the  time  of  his  conversion  Henry  was  in 
his  thirty-first  year,  strong,  healthy,  and  in  the 
prime  of  his  manhood  :  a  man  who  could  not 
by  any  stretch  of  the  imagination  be  classed  as 
a  neurotic  subject ;  a  man  absolutely  illiterate 
and  therefore  with  a  mind  quite  unbiassed  by 

68         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

reading.  He  was,  at  the  time,  as  indifferent  to, 
as  he  was  ignorant  of,  religious  teaching  :  the 
whole  tendency  of  his  work,  companionship, 
and  general  environment  had  indeed  not  been 
"on  the  side  of  the  angels,"  but  on  the  side  of 
evil;  and  like  the  majority  of  his  class  he  thought 
drunkenness  no  sin. 

This  man,  then,  on  the  night  of  January  ist, 
1857,  was  taken  home  so  helplessly  intoxicated 
that  he  had  to  be  carried  to  bed,  and  was  ex- 
pected to  die  before  the  morning — from  alco- 
holic poisoning.  Yet  before  the  morning  of 
January  2nd  dawned,  a  revolution  had  taken 
place  in  his  nature,  his  whole  outlook  on  life 
had  changed,  the  citadel  of  self  and  passional 
desires  had  been  conquered  at  a  blow ;  he  had, 
in  fact,  to  use  a  familiar  word,  been  "converted." 
And  a  most  important  thing  to  remember  is  that 
this  conversion  was  as  complete  and  permanent 
as  it  was  sudden  ;  its  effects,  beginning  in  the 
morning  of  January  2nd,  1857,  have  lasted  for 
over  fifty  years. 

The  scientific  psychologist,  who  cheerfully 
undertakes  to  expound  all  things  relating  to  the 
human   mind,  and  who  can   evolve  the  human 


soul  from  a  Pagan  belief  in  bogies,  will  tell  us 
that  in  such  a  case  as  this  the  cause  of  the 
effects  noted  will  be  found  in  will  power,  atti- 
tude of  mind,  subjective  consciousness,  or  will 
use  some  other  phrase  which  in  reality  explains 

Anyone  with  a  knowledge  of  physiognomy 
will  readily  admit  that  Henry  Watts  is  a  man  of 
great  strength  of  will :  his  big,  square  chin  and 
determined  jaw,  show  that  plainly  enough.  But 
the  will  only  comes  into  operation  after  a  choice 
has  been  made  ;  so,  while  it  becomes  an  import- 
ant factor  after  the  conversion,  it  has  nothing 
to  do  with  the  conversion  itself.  As  to  his  at- 
titude of  mind,  that  was  clearly  shown,  by  the 
condition  he  was  in,  to  be  opposed  to  religion 

The  matter  is  so  important  in  its  bearing  on 
the  whole  of  Henry  Watts' s  after  life  and  char- 
acter, that  no  apology  is  necessary  for  this  rather 
lengthy  introduction,  and  we  may  now  proceed 
to  consider  the  facts  of  the  case.  These  have 
been  obtained  partly  from  Mr.  Watts  himself, 
and  partly  from  the  written  account  of  his  con- 

70         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

version  which  appears  in  his  Journal,  written 
by  a  friend  over  fifteen  years  ago. 

After  the  death  of  his  first  wife  he  was  em- 
ployed in  running  trips  to  London,  and  his  little 
home  was  without  anyone  to  take  care  of  it  dur- 
ing his  absence.  Returning  home  after  one  of 
these  trips,  he  found  that  many  of  his  household 
goods  had  been  stolen,  and  this  so  exasperated 
him  that  he  sold  off  all  that  remained.  Then 
he  went  to  his  sister  Isabella  and  asked  her  to 
take  him  in,  which  she  agreed  to  do,  though  it 
was  a  difficult  matter  to  find  room  for  him,  as 
she  had  a  family  of  little  children.  Having 
settled  this  matter,  he  took  the  money  obtained 
from  the  sale  o{  his  goods  and  spent  it  in  drink. 
He  was  brought  to  his  sister's  house  that  night 
in  a  dreadful  state  of  intoxication,  was  carried 
upstairs  by  four  women  and  laid  on  his  bed, 
from  which  it  was  feared  he  would  never  rise 

In  the  early  hours  of  the  morning,  however, 
the  effects  of  the  drink  having  worn  off  some- 
what, he  awoke,  and  saw  what  he  describes  as 
a  huge  black  cloud,  the  sight  of  which  filled 
him  with  dread.     The  impression  created  upon 


his  mind  was  that  the  Day  of  Judgment  had 
arrived,  and  a  great  terror  seized  hold  of  him  as 
he  remembered  the  life  he  had  lived,  without 
thought  of  God  or  religion.  In  the  midst  of 
his  fear  he  heard  a  voice  saying,  "  Choose  you 
this  day  whom  ye  will  serve." 

Immediately  upon  this  he  jumped  from  the 
the  bed  and  shouted  to  his  sister  in  a  loud  and 
agitated  voice,  "  Bella!     Bring  me  the  Bible!" 

His  sister  came  running  up  to  him  saying, 
"  Harry,  gan  ti  bed  agin,  thoo'll  freeten  aal  me 
little  bairns.  Thoo's  got  th'  delirium  tremens  ; 
get  thee  ti  bed  agin." 

"  Nay,  lass,  this  is  the  best  thing  that's  com 
ti  me  yet,"  he  replied  excitedly.  "  Fetch  me 
th'  Bible !" 

Thinking  to  quieten  him  she  brought  the 
Bible.  Holding  it  in  his  hands  he  knelt  and 
cried  aloud  for  God  to  pardon  his  sins.  So  he 
continued  for  some  time,  and  at  last  peace  came 
to  him.  He  got  into  bed  again  and  slept  till 
morning ;  and  from  that  hour  he  was  a  changed 
man.  Never  again  did  he  taste  strong  drink  ; 
and  for  fifty-three  years  he  has  lived  the  Chris- 
tian life,  acting  up  to  the  highest  he  knew. 

72         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

The  sceptic  may  explain  the  first  part  of  the 
above  statement  to  his  own  satisfaction,  and 
may  show  the  cause  to  have  been  something 
other  than  that  supposed  ;  but  whatever  the 
cause,  the  fact — the  solid,  substantial  fact  of 
fifty-three  years  of  Christian  life  dating  from 
that  hour  remains,  and  cannot  be  explained  on 
any  other  hypothesis  than  that  involved  in 
Christianity.  Such  sudden  conversions  are  not 
by  any  means  rare  in  the  history  of  Christianity, 
and  the  reader  will  scarcely  need  to  be  remind- 
ed of  the  most  remarkable  of  them  all,  that  of 
Saul  of  Tarsus. 

At  this  time  there  lived  at  the  east  end  of 
Coronation  Street,  just  opposite  the  Market,  a 
Mr.  Thomas  Hanson,  who  kept  a  framemaker's 
shop.  He  conducted  a  mission  known  as  Han- 
son's Stafford  Street  Mission.  As  soon  as 
Henry  got  some  respectable  clothes  he  joined 
Hanson's  Mission,  and  very  soon  came  his  first 
trial.  Mr.  Hanson  requested  him  to  go  and  de- 
liver tracts  to  all  those  who  had  been  his  drunken 
companions,  and  try  to  bring  them  into  the  mis- 
sion. This  was  as  great  a  test  of  Henry's  new- 
found  strength  as  anything  well  could  be.      It 


was  another  case  of  "  Mulholland's  Contract."* 
Mulholland,  in  danger  of  his  life  in  a  cattle- 
boat,  had  vowed  to  serve  God  if  ''He  got  me 
to  port  alive."     This  being  duly  accomplished, 

u  I  spoke  to  God  of  our  Contract,  an'  He  says  to  my 

prayer  : 
■  I  never  puts   on   My  ministers  no  more  than  they  can 

1  So  back  you   go  to   the  cattle-boats    an'    preach   My 

Gospel  there.' 

u  I  didn't  want  to  do  it,  for  I  knew  what  I  should  get, 
An'  I  wanted   to  preach   Religion,  handsome  an'  out  of 

the  wet, 
But  the  word  of  the   Lord  were  lain  on  me,  an  I  done 

what  I   was  set." 

And  Henry  Watts  didn't  want  to  do  it  either, 
but,  like  Mulholland,  he  kept  his  contract  and 
"done  what  he  was  set,"  though  under  some- 
what gentler  conditions  than  the  cattle  -  boat 
man,  who  "rounded  up"  his  subordinates  on 
Sundays  to  preach 

"  .    .   .    whenever  the  sea  is  calm, 
An'  I  use  no  knife  or  pistol  an'  I  never  take  no  harm, 
For  the  Lord  abideth  back  of  me  to  guide  my  fightin' 

*  Rudyard  Kipling's  "The  Seven  Seas." 

74         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

Henry  went  about  his  work  of  trying  to  re- 
claim his  late  companions  in  a  different  way 
from  that;  but  his  "fighting  arm"  was  there 
right  enough,  and  was  duly  taken  into  account 
by  those  to  whom  he  talked. 

He  took  a  bundle  of  tracts,  and  went 
to  a  number  of  men  standing  at  the  foot  of 
Silver  Street,  and  gave  them  an  invitation  to 
the  mission   in   his  own  way. 

"  Wey  nut?"  said  he,  when  they  objected. 
"  We've  played  tigether  as  boys,  we've  warked 
tigether  as  men,  an'  we've  offens  enuff  bin  drunk 
tigether,  wey  nut  cum  ti  th'  chapel  an'  let's  pray 

Most  of  them  gave  a  blank  negative,  but  to 
two  of  them  he  appealed  personally.  At  last 
they  pointed  to  his  fine  new  clothes  and  asked 
him  how  he  expected  them  to  go  and  sit  with 
him  in  the  things  they  had  on? 

"  Is  that  what's  trubblin'  tha?"  asked  Harry. 
"Wait  here  a  few  minutes." 

Off  he  went  home  in  a  hurry,  changed  his 
clothes  for  the  worst  he  had,  and  returned  to 
them,  saying  "  Noo  then,  hinnies,  cum  on,  for 
we're  aal  alike." 


The  two  men  thereupon  went  with  him  ;  they 
became  converts,  and  proved  to  be  good  work- 
ers in  the  cause  for  many  years. 

Henry  remained  connected  with  Hanson's 
Mission  for  about  a  year,  and  then  joined  the 
Primitive  Methodist  Chapel  in  Flag  Lane.  For 
forty  years  he  remained  with  that  denomination, 
but  when  he  went  to  live  in  the  house  at  the 
South  Dock,  he  joined  Herrington  Street 
Wesleyan  Chapel,  it  being  easier  to  get  to.  In 
1900  he  returned  to  the  Primitive  Methodists, 
attending  Mainsforth  Terrace  Chapel,  and  has 
remained  there  ever  since. 

He  is  of  the  old-fashioned  type  of  Christian. 
He  knows  nothing  and  cares  nothing  about  re- 
ligious controversy ;  his  simple  faith  in  the 
main  doctrines  of  Christianity  is  all-sufficient 
for  him,  and,  it  may  be  said,  is  a  great  and  in- 
creasing comfort  to  him  in  his  declining  years. 
He  is  an  optimist  to  his  finger  tips,  always 
bright  and  cheerful  ;  and  he  is  so  earnest 
and  vigorous  even  now  in  his  eighty-fifth  year, 
that  it  is  good  to  be  in  his  company  for  a  while. 
One  scarcely  knows  to  whom  to  liken  him  so 
far  as  his  religious  life  is  concerned  :  he  seems 

76         LIFE   OF    HARRY  WATTS 

to  be  a  combination  of  several  people.  He  has 
something  of  the  humour  of  the  late  Rev.  Peter 
Mackenzie,  without  his  versatile  fancy  and  his- 
trionic ability  ;  the  originality  and  quaint  speech 
of  Tarn -o'- Jack's  lad,  breaking  out  now  and 
again  in  the  most  whimsical  sayings  ;  and  the 
liveliness,  simple  faith,  and  optimism  of  Billy 
Bray — just  the  sort  of  man  who  would  be  a 
strong  pillar  in  any  cause  with  which  he  was 
associated — always  provided  the  cause  had  a 
tactful  leader. 

"  I  think  I  could  be  a  good  woman  if  I  had 
five  thousand  a  year,"  says  Becky  Sharp,  and 
possibly  there  are  people  who  think  that 
they  could  manage  it  on  something  less  than 
that ;  but  in  Henry  Watts  we  have  a  man  who 
has  succeeded  in  living  a  consistent  Christian 
life  while  occupying  the  humblest  social  position. 

In  the  early  days  after  his  conversion  Henry 
became  a  worker  in  the  temperance  cause,  and 
he  tells  of  the  difficulties  the  advocates  of  tem- 
perance had  to  face  in  the  work.  At  the  public 
meetings  the  speakers  had  to  put  up  with  a  good 
deal  of  hustling,  and  were  lucky  if  they  got  off 
with  nothing  more  forcible  than  words.     When 


the  speaker  was  a  working  man  known  to  the 
audience,  he  was  met  with  such  cries  as,  "Ay, 
an'  what  was  ye  afore  ye  tuk  on  wi'  this  ?"  and 
personalities  were  freely  indulged  in.  Strange 
to  say,  the  women  in  many  cases  objected  to 
their  "men"  being  teetotallers,  and  would  go 
to  the  meetings  on  purpose  to  interrupt  them 
when  speaking. 

"Ay,"  says  Henry  reflectively,  "they  were 
an  ignorant  and  a  queer  class  awtigether,  me  as 
well  as  the  rest  of  'em." 

Mr.  Watts  has  many  incidents  to  tell  con- 
nected with  his  religious  life.  Some  of  these 
may  appear  trivial  to  those  accustomed  to  take 
a  merely  material  view  of  things,  those  who 
pride  themselves  upon  their  "  common  sense  ;" 
but  the  deep  earnestness  and  obvious  sincerity 
of  the  man  are  such  as  to  lift  even  small  inci- 
dents out  of  the  plane  of  the  commonplace. 
One  or  two  of  these  incidents  are  given  as 
showing  the  character  of  Mr.  Watts,  the  prac- 
tical view  he  takes  of  Christianity,  and  the 
earnestness  with  which  he  applies  its  teachings 
to  every  act  of  his  daily  life. 

7%         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

One  morning,  when  Henry  was  in  Mowbray 
Park,  an  elderly  man,  an  invalid,  was  brought 
into  the  Park  by  his  daughter.  Henry  entered 
into  conversation  with  him,  and  presently  asked 
him  if  he  ever  prayed.  "  No,"  was  the  sad 
reply,  "  I  cannot  pray." 

Seeing  a  Christian  friend  near,  Henry  called 
him,  and  the  two  knelt  then  and  there  and  pray- 
ed for  the  invalid.  Then  Henry  asked  him  if 
he  could  repeat  the  publican's  prayer,  "  God  be 
merciful  to  me  a  sinner."  The  man  complied, 
repeating  the  prayer  again  and  again,  and  so 
they  left  him.  This  strange  meeting  had  the 
happiest  result,  for  the  invalid  became  a  con- 
vert, and  when  he  died  some  little  time  after- 
wards it  was  as  a  believer. 

During  the  above  scene  there  sat  near  on  one 
of  the  park  seats,  a  man  who  seemed  to  be  much 
amused  at  what  he  had  witnessed.  He  beckon- 
ed Henry  and  asked  him  had  he  heard  the 
news  ? 

"  Nay,"  says  Henry,  "  What  news  ?" 

"  The  Devil  is  dead,"  answered  the  man  with 
a  laugh. 


Now,  Henry  had  of  course  never  heard  of 
that  remarkable  book  The  Cloister  and  the 
Hearth,  or  he  would  have  recognised  this  fam- 
ous saying  of  Denys,  the  soldier ;  nevertheless 
he  was  not  short  of  an  answer. 

"  Oh,  the  Devil's  dead,  is  he?"  said  he;  and 
with  a  meaning  look  at  the  man,  "what  a  pity 
he's  left  some  of  his  imps  behind  him." 

At  this  the  man  answered  with  profanity,  and 
Henry  with  the  mild  retort  to  "Gan  an'  wesh 
thee  mooth  oot,"  walked  off  and  left  him. 

Mr.  Watts  tells  how  some  years  ago,  a  great 
desire  came  upon  him  on  New  Year's  Day,  to 
go  down  and  visit  the  house  in  Silver  Street 
where  he  had  lived  after  conversion,  so  that 
he  might  pray  with  the  people  he  found  there. 
He  went,  and  found  the  people  enjoying  the 
good  cheer  customary  at  such  a  time.  Having 
explained  his  errand  they  all  knelt  down, 
and  in  his  own  simple  but  forceful  vernacular 
he  prayed  with  them.  Years  afterwards  he 
met  some  who  had  been  present  at  that 
gathering,  and  he  was  overjoyed  when  they  told 
him  that  they  had  become  Christians  as  the  re- 
sult of  that  little  prayer  meeting. 

80         LIFE   OF    HARRY  WATTS 

But  perhaps  the  truest  test  of  the  sustaining 
and  controlling  power  of  a  practical  religion 
such  as  Henry's,  is  seen  when  its  possessor  is 
brought  suddenly  face  to  face  with  death.  At 
such  a  supreme  moment  a  man's  deepest 
feelings  find  expression,  for  he  knows  that  no 
sham  or  superficial  profession  will  avail  him 

A  recent  example  of  what  is  meant  was 
witnessed  in  connection  with  that  terrible  ex- 
plosion at  the  Wellington  Pit,  Whitehaven,  on 
May  i  ith,  1910.  Owing  to  the  explosion  over 
one  hundred  men  found  themselves  suddenly 
shut  up  in  a  horrible,  fiery  tomb,  without  any 
hope  of  escape.  Many  weeks  afterwards,  when 
at  last  search  could  be  made  for  the  bodies,  in 
one  part  of  the  workings  where  a  number  of 
the  unfortunate  men  had  been  entombed,  a 
board  or  beam  was  found  on  which  had  been 
written  in  chalk,  "  The   Lord  is  our  refuge  and 

strength,  a   very  present   help ,"   at   which 

point  death  seems  to  have  overtaken  the  writer 
and  prevented  the  completion  of  the  sentence. 
But  enough  had  been  written  to  bring  a  ray  of 
consolation  to  the  sorely-tried  and  sorrowing  re- 


latives  ;  enough  to  show  that  even  in  such  dire 
straits  religion  had  sustained  the  sufferers. 

And  here  is  a  somewhat  similar  instance  in 
the  life  of  Henry  Watts,  an  incident  which 
shows  that  his  religion  was  no  mere  superficial 
thing,  no  mere  jargon  of  stock  phrases  and 
platitudes,  but  a  real  living  force. 

The  incident  occurred  many  years  ago,  soon 
after  he  became  a  diver  for  the  River  Wear 
Commissioners.  The  diving  suit  as  now  worn 
was  not  then  in  general  use,  the  diving-bell 
being  used  for  all  submarine  work.  At 
the  time  in  question  Henry  went  down  in  the 
diving-bell,  and  took  two  masons  with  him  to 
do  some  repairs  at  the  lock  gates.  Hardly 
had  they  got  down  when  the  gate  chains 
fouled  the  air-pipes  and  stopped  the  supply  of 
air.  This  caused  the  water  to  rise  in  the  div- 
ing-bell, and  Henry  at  once  began  to  knock  on 
the  side  of  the  bell  with  a  hammer,  that  being 
the  danger  signal.  Those  above  heard  the 
signal  and  worked  hard  to  clear  the  chain 
so  as  to  pull  the  bell  up,  but  with  no  ap- 
parent result,  for  the  water  in  the  bell  rose 
higher    and    higher    and    death    stared    them 

82         LIFE    OF  HARRY  WATTS 

in  the  face.  Fear  took  hold  of  the  men,  as  well 
it  might,  and  then  Henry,  turning  to  his  com- 
panions, told  them  that  as  far  as  he  could  see 
they  were  all  three  condemned  to  die.  "  And 
I  thank  God,"  says  he,  "that  at  that  moment 
He  gave  me  strength  to  sing  a  hymn." 

He  got  through  the  first  verse,  singing,  I 
doubt  not,  without  a  quaver  in  his  voice,  while  the 
water,  deadly  and  silent,  rose  higher  and  higher, 
and  death  came  nearer  every  moment.  He  be- 
gan the  second  verse,  and  while  singing  it,  and 
almost  at  the  last  possible  moment  when  it  would 
be  of  use,  there  came  a  gush  of  air,  the  chain 
had  suddenly  dropped  clear  of  the  pipes  and 
they  were  saved. 

One  of  Henry's  companions  on  this  occasion 
was  a  man  who  cared  nothing  about  religion, 
but  after  this  thrilling  experience  he  "  mended 
his  ways,"  and  subsequently  became  an  earnest 
worker  in  the  good  cause.  The  other  man  was 
a  religious  man,  and  as  Henry  says,  "  After  such 
a  deliverance  we  both  of  us  tried  to  live  nearer 
to  God  in  thankfulness  to  Him  for  His  mercy." 



Fifteen  men  on  the  Dead  Man's  Chest — 
Vo-ho-ho,  and  a  bottle  of  rum  I 

— Stevenson's  "Treasure  Island." 

IN  the  first  part  of  the  book  is  an  excellent 
portrait  of  Henry  Watts,  but  as  the 
best  of  portraits  must  of  necessity  fall  short 
of  the  reality,  a  few  words  of  description  may 
not  be  amiss,  and  may  help  to  correct  the  men- 
tal picture  which  the  reader,  who  has  not  met 
Mr.  Watts,  will  have  formed  of  him  after  read- 
ing thus  far. 

We  have  seen  Henry  Watts  in  his  childhood, 
one  of  a  struggling  family,  finding  it  difficult — 
almost  impossible — to  make  headway  against 
the  tide  of  circumstances  ;  we  have  seen  him  in 
his  youth,  still  fighting  hard  against  the  stream, 
but  now,  though  buffeted  about  a  good  deal, 
making  a  little  advance  ;  and  we  have  seen  him 

84        LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

arrived  at  manhood  and  securing  a  foothold, 
though  a  precarious  one,  on  the  shore  of  a  social 
life  of  a  better  and  higher  kind  than  hitherto. 
What  manner  of  man  was  he  at  this  period  ? 

The  hardships  and  struggles  he  had  gone 
through  were  such  as  soon  kill  off  the  weak- 
lings ;  he  is  an  example  of  the  law  of  "the 
survival  of  the  fittest."  It  may  have  been  that 
some  accidental  variation  from  the  general  run 
of  his  fellows  favoured  him  in  the  fight,  but  at 
any  rate  here  he  is  at  the  age  of  thirty,  a  fine 
specimen  of  manhood. 

He  stands  five  feet  nine  inches  in  height, 
weighs  twelve  and  a-half  stones,  is  straight  as 
a  pole,  muscular  and  strong,  and  has  a  grip  to 
the  hand  of  him  like  a  vice.  Reddish  hair  and 
beard,  what  one  may  call  a  fresh-weather  com- 
plexion, keen  blue  eyes  which  look  out  bold  and 
fearless  from  under  the  overhanging  brows;  and 
to  finish  off  with,  a  firm  mouth,  a  determined 
jaw,  and  a  big  square  chin.  Alter  his  dress  and 
place  a  winged  helmet  on  his  head,  and  you 
have  a  true  specimen  of  the  old  Vikings — those 
bold  sea  warriors  who  never  knew  defeat.  There 
is  no  mistaking  the  fact  that  he  is  a  son  of  Nep- 


tune,  he  has  about  him  that  alertness,  that  in- 
describable something  which  proclaims  the  fact. 
When  I  met  him  first,  now  over  thirty  years 
ago,  though  he  was  then  a  considerable  distance 
past  the  fiftieth  milestone  on  life's  highway,  so 
well  did  his  vigorous  constitution  hide  his  age, 
that  the  above  description  answers  for  him  as 
well  as  at  the  age  of  thirty.  And  even 
now,  in  his  old  age,  when  talking  to  him, 
you  may  put  aside  his  brave  deeds  and  forget 
all  about  them,  and  he  is  still  an  attractive  per- 
sonality. His  courtesy  and  self-reliance  make 
themselves  felt,  and  one  is  not  long  in  his  com- 
pany before  feeling  that  here  is  a  good  man  as 
well  as  a  brave  one.  One  forgets  the  broad 
vernacular  in  which  he  talks,  and  which  sounds 
pleasant  enough  and  natural  enough  as  used  by 
him  ;  one  forgets  that  he  is  unlettered  ;  these 
things  and  all  they  imply  become  as  nothing 
before  the  natural  courtesy  and  kindness  of  the 
man,  and  especially  before  that  hall-mark  of  the 
gentleman,  whatever  his  station  in  life — con- 
sideration for  the  feelings  of  others.  "  Divn't 
put  that  doon,  though,"  he  says,  after  telling  me 
an  incident  which  seemed  to  reflect  upon  some 

86       LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

of  the  persons  mentioned,  "  Divn't  put  that 
doon,  though,  theere's  mevvies  sum  o'  theer 
people  livin',  an'  aw  wadn't  like  ti  hurt  'em  ; " 
and  on  another  occasion,  "  Yis,  it's  true  enuff, 
but  aw  wadn't  put  that  in,"  the  objection  being 
the  same  as  before. 

Henry  has  come  to  understand  in  some  mea- 
sure how  much  he  has  lost  through  lack  of  edu- 
cation, and  on  rare  occasions  he  will  bemoan  his 
hard  lot  in  that  respect.  But  not  for  long ;  the 
hopefulness  of  his  nature  will  out  again,  and  he 
will  scout  the  idea  of  repining,  and  even  try  to 
find  some  sort  of  argument  to  show  that  he 
might  be  worse  off  if  educated. 

"  Wey,  aw  divn't  knaw,"  he  said  on  one  such 
occasion,  "aw  wint  ower  ti  Hamburg  yince,  an' 
theere  wes  sivven  on  us  aboard  an'  nut  yen  ov 
us  cud  read  or  write,  nut  even  th'  mate  ;  didn't 
knaw  A  B  C  fra  a  gridiron,  on'y  th'  skipper. 
Whin  ony  ships  passed  us,  ef  the  cap'n  was  i' 
bed  we  hed  to  roust  him  oot  ti  read  the  nyams 
ov  'em.  Yit,  man  alive,  we  made  the  passage 
awreet.  An'  here  they  are  tiday,  eddicated  in 
Colleges  an'  High  Skules,  an'  aw  divn't  knaw 
what,  an',  man,  theers  plenty  ov  'em  cuddent  find 


theer  way  yam  fra  th'  ferryboot  lan'in'  ef  th' 
leets  wes  oot." 

When  the  Laing  Warehouse  on  the  Dock 
was  opened,  the  River  Wear  Commissioners 
gave  a  dinner  to  the  workmen,  at  which  Harry 
was  present.  Very  seriously  he  told  how  a  cer- 
tain Irish  storekeeper  persuaded  him  to  take 
some  "stuff  caaled  blaymonge,"  It  disappoint- 
ed him,  for,  as  he  says,  "It  wes  that  caad  aw 
nigh  shook  aal  me  teeth  oot !"  As  a  set-off  to 
this  the  same  Irish  humorist  brought  him  some 
plum-pudding,  but  as  it  was  "aal  on  fire!" 
Henry  promptly  refused  it,  no  doubt  guessing 
the  cause  of  the   "fire." 

Indeed,  Henry,  from  the  first  day  of  his  con- 
version, has  been  what  is  called  a  fanatical  tee- 
totaller. Once  when  busy  diving  at  the  end  of 
the  North  Pier,  stopping  the  leaks  in  a  stranded 
ship  so  that  she  might  be  floated,  he  had  come 
up  for  some  purpose  and  was  about  to  descend 
again,  his  helmet  lying  beside  him  ready  to  put 
on.  At  this  particular  moment  a  carpenter,  who 
was  working  up  above,  looked  over  the  side  with 
a  bottle  of  rum  in  his  hand,  from  which  he  had 
been  drinking.      He  accidentally  let  it  fall,  and 

88       LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

it  smashed  itself  right  in  Henry's  diving  helmet. 
Whereupon  Henry,  having  given  the  man  a 
short  but  impressive  lecture  on  his  bad  habit, 
insisted  upon  having  the  helmet  washed  out 
before  he  would  allow  the  contaminated  thing 
to  be  put  on  his  head  ;  and  washed  out  it  had 
to  be. 

As  already  mentioned  he  has  a  whimsical 
humour  of  his  own,  but  it  is  doubtful  if  he  has 
that  sense  of  humour  which  we  mean  when  we 
speak  of  its  "saving  grace."  He  is  not  quick 
to  see  a  humorous  situation  the  essence  of 
which  is  incongruity  ;  nor  that  subtler  kind 
where  more  is  implied  than  is  said,  or  where 
there  is  a  real  relation  of  ideas  discovered  which 
is  not  apparent.  His  is  more  the  broadsword 
of  natural  humour,  rather  than  the  rapier  which 
is  begotten  of  a  cultivated  intelligence. 

As  an  instance  of  what  is  meant,  he  enjoyed 
vastly  the  telling  of  a  story  about  the  "  Stormy 
Petrel "  (Mr.  Joseph  Hodgson),  another  well- 
known  Sunderland  life-saver,  in  which  that 
gentleman  having  insisted  upon  a  trial  of  div- 
ing, and  the  collar-piece  being  too  small  to  go 
over  his  head,  Henry  suggested  a  slight  opera- 


tion,  and  solemnly  sent  a  workman  for  an  axe 
to  cut  off  the  would-be  diver's  nose  ;  yet  almost 
immediately  afterwards  he  told  in  a  few  short 
sentences,  and  without  any  appreciation  of  its 
dramatic  significance,  another  story  which  is 
well  worth  giving  in  detail  and  "with  all  the 
pomp  and  date  of  circumstance." 

A  big  Batavian  ship,  the  "  Blucher,"  was 
ashore  on  the  rocks  to  the  north  of  the  river. 
The  crew  refused  to  come  off  with  the  life-boat, 
but  afterwards  some  came  ashore  in  their  own 
boat  and  some  were  brought  ashore  by  the 
rocket  lines.  The  next  day  Henry  was  engaged 
with  a  gang  of  men  in  stripping  her  before  she 
broke  up.  She  lay  in  a  very  dangerous  posi- 
tion and  the  sea  was  very  rough.  When  they 
had  finished  work  and  had  got  ashore  in  their 
boat,  they  missed  one  of  their  mates,  a  man 
named  Jim  Bailey.  No  one  being  able  to  give 
an  account  of  him,  it  was  decided  to  go  off  to 
the  ship  to  search  for  him,  it  being  supposed 
that  he  had  been  left  behind  by  accident,  or 
that  perhaps  he  had  injured  himself  in  the  hold 
of  the  ship. 

9o         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

So  the  boat  was  launched  once  more  and  off 
they  went  to  seek  for  him,  for  there  was  con- 
siderable danger  in  remaining  aboard  the  ship 
as  she  might  break  up  at  any  moment.  Arrived 
at  the  ship  they  searched  everywhere  for  the 
missing  man,  but  could  find  no  trace  of  him. 
Presently,  above  the  noise  of  the  wind  and  sea, 
they  heard  a  sound  proceeding  from  the  after 
part  of  the  ship.  They  forced  their  way  along 
and  soon  located  the  sound.  It  was  Jim  Bailey's 
voice  and  it  came  from  the  cabin.  They  hurried 
down,  and  there  sure  enough  was  Mr.  Bailey. 
He  was  sitting  at  the  head  of  the  cabin  table 
with  a  bottle  of  rum  before  him,  which  he  was 
doing  his  best  to  empty.  The  sound  they  had 
heard  was  his  voice  shouting  to  an  imaginary 
company  to  keep  order. 

"  Silence,  gentlemen,  silence !  Order  for  a 
song  I"  and  straightway  he  struck  up  : — 

11  Whenever  I  go  to  Blackwall   Dock, 
I'm  sure  to  meet  old  Polly  ; 
And  I  would  rather — rather — ra — " 

"Silence,  gentlemen,  silence!  Order  for  a 
song !"     And  striking  the  table  with  the  bottle 



to  emphasize  his  ruling,  he  would  begin  with  the 
song  once  more  : — 

"  Whenever  I  go  to  Blackwall  Dock, 
I'm  sure  to  meet  old  Polly  ; 
And  I  would  rather — rather — ra — ra — " 

"Silence,  gentlemen,  silence!  Order  for  a 
song !"  And  so  on  ad  lib. ,  always  broaching 
to  at  the  same  place.  What  he  would  rather 
have  done  he  never  told,  for  although  he  re- 
peated the  words  a  score  of  times  he  never  got 
beyond  the  fatal  word  "rather.".  At  this  point 
his  imaginary  company  appeared  to  interrupt 
him,  and  he  had  to  call  them  to  order. 

Henry  and  his  companions  had  to  drag  him 
out  of  the  cabin  into  the  boat  by  main  force, 
but  he  did  not  allow  this  to  interfere  with  the 
"harmony."  All  the  time  he  struggled  in  a 
good-humoured  way  against  this  coercion,  but 
he  never  stopped  his  singing,  or  his  "  Silence, 
gentlemen,  silence  !  Order  for  a  song  !"  follow- 
ing this  with  his  lugubrious  ditty  relative  to  old 



Old  times  were  changed,  old  manners  gone  ; 

— Scott's  m  Lay  of  the  Last  Minstrel." 

WE  have  now  arrived  at  a  most  interesting 
period  in  the  life  of  Mr.  Watts — that 
of  his  life  as  a  diver.  It  was  a  life  full  of  peril 
and  adventure  and  hairbreadth  'scapes  from 
death,  even  more  so  than  had  been  his  sea  life  ; 
and  it  provided  him  also  with  more  opportunities 
of  service  to  others. 

There  was  some  difficulty  in  deciding  as  to 
the  date  when  Henry  entered  the  service  of 
the  Commissioners,  but  the  old  discharge  note 
from  the  brig  "  Martha,"  already  mentioned, 
establishes  the  fact  that  Henry  Watts  was  serv- 
ing on  board  of  her  from  August  19th  to 
November  19th,  1861,  and  as  he  did  not  go 
to  sea  again  after  once  starting  for  the  Commis- 
sioners, he  could  not  have  entered  their  service 


earlier  than  December,  1861,  and  probably  did 
not  do  so  till  the  beginning  of  1862. 

On  June  7th,  1857,  just  six  months  after  his 
conversion,  he  married  his  second  wife,  Sarah 
Ann  Thompson,  by  whom  he  had  two  children, 
a  son  and  a  daughter,  both  still  living.  The 
marriage  took  place  at  Monkwearmouth  Parish 
Church,  the  contracting  parties  being  certified 
as  living  in  Dock  Street,  Monkwearmouth.  As 
a  matter  of  fact,  they  lived  in  Monkey's  Yard, 
but  had  taken  up  temporary  residence  in  Dock 
Street  for  a  sufficient  length  of  time  to  enable 
them  to  be  married  at  Monkwearmouth  Parish 

Henry's  second  wife  owned  some  five  or  six 
of  the  houses  in  Monkey's  Yard,  as  well  as 
some  other  property,  the  whole  of  it  coming  to 
her  on  the  death  of  her  mother.  The  deeds 
connected  with  the  property  were  sent  out  to 
her  brother  in  Australia,  in  connection  with  his 
claim  to  a  share  in  the  estate.  When  on  their 
way  home  again  the  mail  boat  carrying  them 
was  wrecked,  but  the  deeds  were  recovered, 
though  in  a  sodden  condition  and,  in  fact,  almost 

94         LIFE    OF   HARRY  WATTS 

a  pulp,  and  were  sent  on  to  Sunderland.* 
Henry  tells  how,  when  he  afterwards  had  to  try- 
to  sign  his  name  in  connection  with  this  pro- 
perty, he  was  so  long  about  it  that  the  solicitor, 
Mr.  Snowball,  lost  patience  and  exclaimed  : 
"  Come  along,  man  ;  you're  going  to  use  up  all 
the  ink  in  the  office.  Anyone  might  think  you 
were  signing  a  Royal  Charter."  To  which 
Henry  could  find  nothing  to  say  but,  "  Aye, 
aye,  Mr.  Snowbaal ;  be  canny  wiv  us  ;  aw's 
deem'  me  best." 

Henry's  second  wife  died  in  1884,  after 
twenty-seven  years  of  happy  married  life,  and 
is  held  in  affectionate  remembrance  by  all  who 
knew  her. 

Before  recounting  some  of  the  stirring  inci- 
dents of  Henry's  life  as  a  diver,  a  brief  sketch 
of  the  river  and  port  at  the  time  he  entered  the 
Commissioners'  service  will  be  interesting,  and, 
indeed,  necessary,  as  showing  the  conditions  he 
worked  under,  and  also  for  the  purpose  of  com- 
paring the  town  and  river  then  with  what  it  was 
when  he  was  a  boy. 

*  The  deeds  are  preserved  in  the  Sunderland  Museum. 


The  three  veterans  of  the  River  Wear  Com- 
missioners, Mr.  C.  H.  Dodds,  the  general  man- 
ager, Mr.  Daniel  Wright,  and  Mr.  Harry  Watts, 
having  been  brought  together,  it  seemed  an 
excellent  opportunity  to  get  some  facts  relating 
to  the  port  in  the  fifties,  and  much  of  the  follow- 
ing information  is  the  result  of  that  interview. 

In  those  early  days  all  the  ships  that  came  to 
the  port  were  sailing  ships,  and  Mr.  Wright, 
who  was  at  first  a  lighthouse  keeper,  remembers 
as  many  as  150  ships  passing  into  the  river  on 
one  tide. 

The  ships  did  not  come  singly  ;  all  of  them 
were  dependent  upon  the  wind  for  motive 
power,  and  as  a  consequence  they  generally 
came  in  fleets  when  the  wind  was  favourable, 
hence  the  "  wood  of  ships  "  spoken  of  in  chapter 
two.  The  first  difficulty  they  had  to  contend 
with  was  to  get  into  the  harbour,  a  difficulty 
which  can  scarcely  be  exaggerated,  as  far  too 
little  attention  was  paid  to  the  entrance  of  the 
river  at  that  time.  Then,  having  got  safely 
over  the  bar,  the  next  trouble  was  to  get  rid  of 
the  ballast.  The  crews  worked  in  frantic  haste 
at  getting  it  out ;    every  available    space   was 

96         LIFE   OF    HARRY  WATTS 

crammed  with  ballast  ;  the  quays  were  covered 
with  it  ;  lighters  were  loaded  with  it ;  it  was 
dumped  anywhere  and  everywhere,  the  main 
thing  being  to  get  it  clear  of  the  ship,  so  that 
she  could  get  up  the  river  to  load.  Mr.  Dodds 
states  that  a  considerable  quantity  of  the  ballast 
was  carted  away  and  tipped  at  Hendon. 

The  disposal  of  this  ballast  is  of  more  import- 
ance than  appears  at  first  sight,  for  a  large  part 
of  the  town  is  built  on  these  ballast  deposits. 
In  the  History  of  Sunderland,  published  by 
Mr.  Taylor  Potts  in  1892,  the  writer  says  : — 

u  There  were  different  places  on  the  river  where 
the  ballast  was  discharged.  On  the  North  Sands, 
ships  had  to  be  discharged  into  carts,  which  took 
the  ballast  up  to  the  top  of  the  bank.  Monkwear- 
mouth  Church  stood  up  the  sloping  bank,  150  yards 
from  the  high  water  mark.  Monkwearmouth-shore 
Poorhouse,  in  our  remembrance,  stood  quite  in  the 
fields,  but  Sir  Hedworth  Williamson  kept  leading 
up  and  depositing  the  ballast  till  the  churchyard 
was  below  the  level  of  the  deposits  ;  and  they  like- 
wise went  on  laying  ballast  around  the  Poorhouse 
till  at  last  it  lay  in  a  hole,  the  surrounding  levels 
being  higher  than  the  chimneys  of  the  house,  which 
was  at  last  pulled  down  and  the  whole  of  the  space 
levelled  up. 


M  On  the  North  Quay  there  were  two  cranes, 
worked  by  horses,  to  take  the  ballast  out  of  the 
ships.  The  Lookout  Hill,  Cage  Hill,  and  Palmer's 
Hill  are  only  ballast  deposits.  Charles  Street, 
Barclay  Street  and  others  were  levelled  up  with 
ballast  for  house  building.  Afterwards  a  subway 
was  constructed,  and  an  engine  and  cranes  erected 
below  the  Ferry,  the  engine  doing  the  duty  of  dis- 
charging ballast  and  also  drawing  waggons  to  the 
top  of  the  bank,  where  at  first  the  ballast  was  tipped 
into  carts,  and  afterwards  into  waggons  on  a  lower 
level,  and  thus  the  roads  and  streets  from  the  Look- 
out Hill  to  Roker  were  formed. 

"  On  the  beach,  above  the  Wreath  quay,  vessels 
used  to  discharge  their  ballast  into  carts,  which 
carried  their  loads  up  to  the  higher  ballast  hills, 
where  the  Wearmouth  Colliery  ship  their  coals. 
There  was  also  a  quantity  led  out  to  Southwick, 
and  also  at  Robert  Reay's  yard  at  North  Hylton, 
the  two  latter  principally  from  keels. 

u  At  Deptford,  vessels  used  to  lie  on  the  beach 
and  discharge  their  ballast  into  carts,  which  was 
led  up  the  road,  and  formed  what  is  called  the 
Ballast  Hills  at  Ayre's  Quay,  and  also  Lookout  Hill 
at  Deptford.  .  .  .  From  Hardcastle's,  Bowes', 
and  Ettrick's  quays,  and  from  Thornhill's,  Holmes', 
and  Wylam's  wharves,  ballast  was  led  all  over  the 
town,  wherever  required  for  paving  and  other  filling- 
in  purposes,  as  well  as  to  other  places  of  deposit. 


98         LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

'  '  Contractors,  when  putting  in  culverts  or  sewers, 
are  sometimes  astonished  to  find  London  dredge 
sand,  with  shells  and  small  dust  coals  all  mixed 
after  being  tipped  ;  and  sometimes  flints  are  crossed 
in  the  same  way,  having  come  from  the  West  of 
England  as  ballast. 

u  The  difficulty  with  the  different  owners  of  quays 
and  wharfingers,  after  landing  the  ballast,  was  to 
find  a  place  of  deposit,  and  they  often  had  a  long 
lead  to  the  spot." 

The  ballast  being  got  rid  of  by  hook  or  crook, 
the  ships  went  up  the  river  to  be  loaded,  and 
when  loaded  had  to  wait  for  a  favourable  wind 
to  get  out  of  the  river.  There  was  thus  very 
often  a  large  number  of  ships  in  the  river  ;  and 
when  at  last  there  came  a  favourable  wind,  off 
they  would  all  go  together,  so  that,  as  Mr. 
Dodds  remarked,  it  was  no  exaggeration  to  say 
that  at  such  times  the  sea  was  one  mass  of  ships 
from  the  Tyne  to  Hartlepool. 

But  perhaps  the  chief  cause  for  so  many  ships 
being  in  the  harbour  together  was  the  low  water 
on  the  bar  ;  it  was  then  usually  two  feet  below 
zero  (zero  being  the  standard  gauge  mark  from 
which  all  depths  and  heights  of  the  water  are 
measured),  and  the  improvement  in  this  matter 


may  be  judged  from  the  fact  that  it  is  now 
fifteen  feet — an  enormous  difference. 

It  was  no  uncommon  thing  then  for  ships  to 
be  in  the  river  for  weeks  at  a  time  waiting  for 
favourable  conditions  to  get  out.  Mr.  Wright 
tells  how  he  waited  thus  for  a  month  when  he 
was  an  apprentice;  and  Mr.  Watts  tells  of  a  much 
worse  case  than  that,  namely,  of  two  loaded  ships 
in  the  dock  and  one  in  the  river  which  had  to 
wait  for  three  months  before  they  could  get 
away,  owing  to  a  long-continued  spell  of  bad 
weather  and  the  want  of  water  on  the  bar. 

Indeed,  a  wait  of  two  or  three  weeks  was 
thought  nothing  of  in  those  days,  though  it 
came  very  hard  upon  the  crew.  The  crews  of 
coasting  vessels  were  engaged  by  the  voyage, 
and  had  to  provide  for  themselves  while  in 
harbour,  no  matter  how  long  they  stayed  there  ; 
yet  they  had  to  be  on  board  their  ships  every 
morning  to  do  such  work  as  was  necessary,  and 
that  for  nothing.  All  men  before  the  mast 
lived  on  shore  during  the  time  they  were  in 
harbour,  but  the  shipowners  were  responsible 
for  the  apprentices,  and  had  to  provide  them 
with  the   necessary   board  and  lodging.     The 

ioo       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

men  who  had  signed  articles  by  the  month  had 
the  best  of  the  bargain  during  these  long  delays, 
for  not  only  were  their  wages  going  on,  but  it 
was  part  of  their  contract  that  they  lived  on 
board,  all  found.  Thus,  speaking  locally,  the 
only  men,  that  is,  workmen,  who  suffered  by 
these  long  spells  in  harbour,  were  the  Sunder- 
land seamen,  they  being  engaged  mostly  in  the 
coasting  trade. 

The  owner  to  whom  Mr.  Wright  was  appren- 
ticed paid  nine  shillings  a  week  for  his  board, 
and  it  will  be  seen  by  the  Indentures  of  Mr. 
Watts,  given  earlier  in  the  book,  that  the 
amount  to  be  so  paid  in  his  case  was  eight 
shillings.  There  were  hundreds  of  apprentices, 
and  all  these  boarded  out  during  the  time  the 
ships  were  waiting,  not  at  all  a  bad  thing  for 
some  of  those  who  kept  boarding-houses,  for  as 
many  as  twenty  apprentices  would  be  lodged  at 
one  house,  and  the  boarding-house  keeper  would 
know  how  to  make  a  profit  out  of  such  a 

As  to  the  price  of  food  in  Sunderland  at  this 
time  (1850-60),  some  things  were  cheap  enough, 
and  some  very  dear  as  compared  with  the  pre- 

AFTER  THIRTY  YEARS         101 

sent.  Fish,  for  instance,  was  cheap,  sixpence 
being  the  price  generally  paid  for  a  large  cod ; 
meat,  too,  was  not  dear,  but  flour  was  four 
shillings  a  stone.  Mr.  Wright  remarked  that, 
at  his  home,  where  all  the  bread  was  got  from 
the  bakehouse,  their  baker's  bill  was  never  less 
than  £i  a  week. 

When  Henry  first  began  as  a  diver  he  came 
under  a  West-country  diver,  then  working  for 
the  River  Wear  Commissioners,  and  who,  per- 
haps, being  a  little  jealous,  tried  to  frighten 
Harry  from  the  business  by  telling  him  of 
the  number  of  would-be  divers  who  had  been 
drowned,  and  giving  many  gruesome  details 
connected  with  such  cases.  He  even  went  so 
far  once  as  to  play  certain  tricks  on  Harry  when 
under  the  water ;  but  he  had  got  hold  of  the 
wrong  man  to  frighten,  as  he  soon  discovered, 
and  in  a  very  little  while  Harry  was  able  to 
work  alone. 

Henry  first  used  the  diving-bell  in  1864  in 
blasting  the  rocks  away  from  below  Lambton 
Drops.  All  the  ships'  moorings  were  laid  by 
means  of  the  diving-bell  at  that  time  ;  but  his 
principal  work  at  first  was  in  the  river,  and  one 

102      LIFE    OF     HARRY    WATTS 

of  the  big  jobs  he  had,  which  lasted  a  long  time, 
was  clearing  away  the  stone  at  the  entrance  of 
the  river.  About  1869  or  1870  he  began  to  lift 
all  the  stones  inside  the  old  pier,  and  got  away 
altogether  some  300  or  400  tons  of  them,  thus 
making  a  very  great  improvement  at  the  en- 

It  was  while  working  there  one  day  that  he 
had  a  fight  with  a  devil  fish  (Lophius  pise  a- 
tortus).  Even  when  dead  this  fish  is  an  ugly 
beast  to  look  at,  sending  a  shudder  of  repug- 
nance through  one,  and  one  feels  that  it  would 
be  better  to  go  a  long  way  round  rather  than  to 
meet  it  alive  and  in  its  native  element.  It  has 
an  enormous  head  and  mouth,  grows  to  the 
length  of  five  feet,  and  is  common  along  the 
British  coast. 

While  Henry  was  at  work,  then,  he  suddenly 
found,  on  looking  round,  one  of  these  devil  fish 
near  him  with  its  huge  mouth  open,  and  con- 
templating an  attack,  or  so  Henry  thought. 
Not  having  anything  but  his  knife  to  defend 
himself  with,  he  signalled  to  be  drawn  up,  got 
a  big  boathook  and  descended  again,  to  find 
the  ugly  visitor  still  there.      Using  the  boathook 

AFTER  THIRTY  YEARS         103 

like  a  bayonet,  Henry  attacked  the  fish,  rammed 
the  head  of  the  boathook  into  its  mouth,  and  so 
held  it  on  the  ground  till  he  despatched  it  with 
his  knife. 

He  had  not  been  working  long  as  a  diver 
before  he  was  the  means  of  saving  several  lives. 
In  1862,  while  working  at  the  South  gates,  a 
boat  containing  two  boys  capsized,  and  the  lads 
were  in  danger  of  drowning.  Henry  jumped 
into  the  water,  though  he  had  on  one  of  his 
heavy  diving  boots,  swam  to  the  boys,  and  kept 
them  up  till  a  coble  put  off,  into  which  they  were 
all  three  taken. 

The  following  year  a  boy  and  a  girl,  playing 
on  some  timber  moored  near  the  Panns  Ferry, 
fell  into  the  water,  and  the  strong  ebb  tide  took 
them  swiftly  down  the  river.  There  was  a  steam 
crane  at  the  place  then,  and  Henry  happened  to 
be  in  the  engine-house  at  the  time.  Hearing 
the  cries  he  ran  out,  jumped  into  the  river, 
and,  with  much  difficulty,  succeeded  in  bringing 
them  both  to  the  shore. 

A  local  newspaper,  of  the  year  1 866,  contains 
the  first  reference  I  can  find  to  Mr.  Watts's  life- 
saving  efforts.   The  report  is  given  here  because 

104     LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

of  the  fact  that  it  verifies  the  number  of  lives  he 

had  thus  far  saved  : — 

"Narrow  Escape  from  Drowning. — Yesterday 
afternoon,  about  half-past  three  o'clock,  a  lad  named 
Smith,  about  16  years  of  age,  son  of  an  engineer 
employed  on  one  of  the  Commissioners'  dredgers, 
narrowly  escaped  drowning.  He  was  on  board  a 
dredger  in  the  new  Graving  Dock,  which  was  full 
of  water,  when  he  accidentally  fell  overboard.  Mr. 
Harry  Watts,  in  the  employ  of  the  Commissioners, 
gallantly  jumped  into  the  water  and  rescued  him. 
The  lad  was  very  much  exhausted,  but  restoratives 
were  promptly  used,  and  he  was  soon  brought 
round.  This  is  the  twenty-second  time  that  Watts 
has  so  nobly  exerted  himself  in  saving  persons  who 
have  been  in  imminent  danger  of  being  drowned." 

The  twenty-third  rescue  is  attested  by  Mr. 
Daniel  Wright,  Harbour  Master,  in  a  letter 
dated  Sept.  5th,  1866,  and  refers  to  a  boy  who 
fell  off  the  Commissioners'  Quay  into  the  river  ; 
and  the  twenty-fourth  occurred  in  1867,  when 
Henry  saved  a  boy  who  had  fallen  off  the 
Custom  House  Quay  into  the  river.  A  short 
newspaper  report  of  a  dozen  lines  tells  of 
the  twenty-fifth  rescue.  It  happened  in  1868, 
but  the  exact  date  is  not  given.  The  report  is 
as  follows  : — 

AFTER  THIRTY  YEARS         105 

"Twenty-five  Lives  Saved  by  One  Individual. 
— In  the  employ  of  the  Wear  Commissioners  is  a 
man  named  Henry  Watts,  who  has  a  perfect  pen- 
chant for  rescuing  lives,  and  has  in  one  way  or 
another  succeeded  in  saving-  twenty-five  individuals. 
The  twenty-fifth  case  was  on  Friday  night,  when, 
about  seven  o'clock,  a  boy  named  John  Fox,  living 
in  Mill  Street,  fell  out  of  a  boat  at  the  Mark  Quay 
into  the  river.  Watts  was  at  no  great  distance, 
and  immediately  he  heard  a  lad  was  overboard  he 
jumped  into  the  river,  and  with  some  difficulty 
grasped  the  lad  and  brought  him  ashore." 

And  now  at  last  there  comes  the  first  men- 
tion in  all  this  strange,  eventful  history  of  any 
recognition  for  such  remarkable  services,  but 
this  and  the  ensuing  consequences  are  of  suf- 
ficient importance  to  be  dealt  with  in  a  separate 
section.  It  is  only  necessary  to  say  here  that 
from  this  time  onward  it  is  fairly  easy  to  follow 
Mr.  Watts's  public  life  and  acts  ;  the  man  has 
come  to  the  front,  and  though  recognition  has 
been  tardy  enough,  it  has  come  at  last,  and 
henceforth  no  special  act  of  his  passes  unnoticed 
by  the  Press. 


HENRY    WATTS    AS    A    DIVER. 

A  nd  Mammon's  the  master  and  man  is  the  slave, 
Toiling  for  wealth  on  the  brink  of  the  grave  ; 
Leaving  a  world  of  sunlight  and  sound, 
For  night-like  gloom  and  a  silence  profound  ; 
And  fearful  the  sights  that  the  diver  must  see, 
Walking  alone  in  the  depths  of  the  sea. 

— Song,   "The  Diver." 

THERE  are  so  many  incidents  and  adven- 
tures connected  with  Mr.  Watts's  life  as 
a  diver  that  it  is  difficult  to  know  how  to 
arrange  them  satisfactorily.  The  best  method 
appears  to  be  to  give  the  less  important  inci- 
dents here  and  to  deal  with  the  more  important 
in  a  separate  chapter. 

It  was  while  he  was  working  as  a  diver, 
and  was  on  board  one  of  the  Commissioners' 
dredgers,  that  he  had  the  narrow  escape  from 
drowning,  owing  to  the  boy  whom  he  was  trying 
to  save  gripping  his  legs,  as  told  in  a  previous 


chapter.  This  happened  on  August  18th,  1875, 
and  is  reported  in  the  local  paper  as  follows  : — 
"Gallant  Rescue  from  Drowning. — An  instance 
of  great  bravery  on  the  part  of  a  diver  named  Henry 
Watts,  in  the  employ  of  the  River  Wear  Commis- 
sioners, was  displayed  on  the  morning-  of  Wednes- 
day last.  It  appears  that  about  9.20  a.m.,  a  boy 
named  Bolton,  living  at  Monkwearmouth,  was 
playing  about  the  quay  near  Pemberton's  Drops, 
when  he  accidentally  fell  into  the  river.  Watts, 
who  was  on  board  one  of  the  Commissioners' 
dredgers,  which  was  situated  a  considerable  dis- 
tance from  the  scene  of  the  accident,  at  once  plunged 
into  the  water  and  swam  to  the  assistance  of  the 
lad.  Before  he  had  reached  him  the  boy  had  sunk 
twice,  and  was  about  to  go  down,  probably  for  the 
last  time,  when  the  gallant  diver  seized  him  and 
proceeded  to  bring  him  to  the  shore.  After  having 
been  once  taken  down  by  the  lad,  whose  grip  now 
became  exceedingly  tenacious,  Watts  succeeded 
with  great  difficulty  in  landing  in  safety.  The 
poor  lad  was  at  once  conveyed  to  his  residence, 
and  restoratives  were  applied.  Every  praise  is  due 
to  Watts  for  the  pluck  and  gallantry  he  displayed, 
and  seeing  that  this  is  the  thirtieth  occasion  upon 
which  he  has  saved  lives  from  drowning,  we  hope 
that  some  substantial  recognition  of  his  services 
will  be  given,  either  by  the  Royal  Humane  Society, 
or  some  other  society  having  for  its  object  humane 

108      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

In  1884,  while  diving  at  the  wreck  of  a  ship 
called  the  "  Adolphus,"  he  had  a  narrow  escape. 
The  ship  was  lying  on  her  side,  the  after  part 
of  her  being  above  water,  and  steam  was  up  in 
an  engine  on  the  poop  deck.  The  boiler  of  this 
engine  burst,  flinging  the  workmen  off  the  poop 
deck  and  hurting  many  of  them,  one  so  severely 
that  he  died  shortly  afterwards.  Henry  was 
working  not  far  from  the  engine  when  the 
explosion  took  place,  yet  he  escaped  without 

When  he  had  been  at  the  work  of  diving 
about  two  years,  he  was  engaged  one  day  doing 
some  repairs  at  No.  2  sluice  at  the  dock,  when 
he  became  entangled  with  a  long  length  of 
spunyarn  which  was  being  used  in  the  work. 
The  spunyarn  had  become  fastened  in  the  collar 
of  his  diving-dress  and  the  sluice,  so  it  was  use- 
less giving  the  signal  to  be  drawn  up,  as  the 
strong  spunyarn  held  him  fast,  and  what  to  do 
he  knew  not  for  a  while.  But  something  had  to 
be  done,  so,  exerting  all  his  strength,  he  gave  a 
heavy  spring  backward,  and  so  great  was  the 
force  he  used  that  the  stud  on  the  collar  of  his 
diving-dress  was  broken  off  where  the  spunyarn 


was  caught,  and  up  he  came,  breathless  and  ex- 
hausted. On  another  occasion  he  was  entangled 
under  the  water  when  working  at  No.  1  Graving 
Dock,  and  was  in  a  terribly  exhausted  condition 
when  liberated. 

But  a  worse  case  of  entanglement  than  either 
of  these  happened  to  him  at  the  Fame  Islands. 
One  of  Mr.  Scott's  tugboats  had  been  wrecked 
there,  and  as  her  patent  "sweeps,"  or  paddles, 
were  valuable,  Henry  was  engaged  to  go  and 
recover  them  if  possible.  When  he  got  to  the 
wreck  he  scarcely  knew  how  to  begin  his  work, 
for  the  growth  of  seaweed  was  so  thick  and 
luxuriant  that  it  was  with  the  greatest  difficulty 
he  could  move  amongst  it.  But  it  was  not  in 
his  nature  to  give  in  without  a  trial,  and  as  he 
waded  about  he  presently  found  himself  en- 
tangled in  the  weed  to  such  an  extent  that  he 
could  not  move,  and  the  more  he  struggled  to 
clear  himself  the  more  hopeless  seemed  his 
chance  of  doing  so.  If  the  reader  has  ever 
been  on  Lake  Derwentwater,  and  has  seen  the 
heavy  growth  of  weed  extending  over  some 
acres  of  the  Lake  bottom  just  opposite  Lodore 
Hotel,  he  will  have  some  idea  of  the  difficulty 

no      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

and  danger  of  Harry's  position,  encumbered  as 
he  was  with  his  diving  gear.  It  was  only  by 
the  exercise  of  great  pluck  and  patience  that  he 
finally  managed  to  cut  his  way  out  of  the  hor- 
rible stuff  with  his  knife. 

He  was  once  employed  diving  at  the  out- 
let beside  the  roundhead,  his  particular  work 
being  to  level  the  bottom  with  concrete.  Blast- 
ing operations  were  in  progress  two  or  three 
hundred  yards  from  where  he  was  working,  and 
by  some  oversight  twenty  of  the  "shots"  acci- 
dentally exploded  simultaneously  while  Henry 
was  under  water.  His  sensations  were  extra- 
ordinary, as  may  well  be  supposed.  He  was 
blown  clear  away  from  the  work  and  turned  up- 
side down,  and  his  assistants  drew  him  in  feet 
first.  He  says  that  it  seemed  to  him  as  though 
a  cart-load  of  scrap  iron  had  been  suddenly 
tipped  on  top  of  him.  One  of  his  fingers 
was  broken  as  the  result  of  this  accident,  and 
altogether  he  considers  he  had  a  remarkable 
escape  from  death. 

Still  another  narrow  escape  from  death  oc- 
curred while  he  was  working  at  the  bottom  of 
the  river  at  Hetton  drops.      He  was  removing 


some  stones  when  he  felt  some  small  pieces  fall- 
ing on  to  his  feet,  and  there  came  a  noise  like 
thunder  which  set  up  an  agitation  in  the  whole 
of  his  body.  He  was  unable  to  see  any  cause 
for  this,  but  wisely  signalled  to  be  drawn  up. 
Hardly  had  he  gained  the  deck  of  the  lighter 
when  the  whole  of  the  quay  wall  came  tumbl- 
ing down  and  fell  into  the  water.  He  thus 
escaped  by  a  hairbreadth  from  being  buried 
under  the  huge  mass  of  debris. 

While  working  in  the  dock  one  day  he  felt 
something  grip  his  arm,  and  fearing  that  his 
dress  would  be  punctured,  he  signalled  to  be 
brought  up.  His  son  was  in  attendance  on 
him  at  the  time,  and  as  Henry  got  above 
water  and  the  mouthpiece  was  unscrewed  from 
his  helmet,  he  said, 

"  Whativer's  gettin'  haud  on  us,  Tom?  It 
seems  like  Satan's  own  sel !" 

It  was  a  monster  crab,  not  one  of  the  com- 
mon kind,  but  a  fellow  twenty  inches  across  the 
extended  claws,  and  with  hundreds  of  short 
spikes  as  sharp  as  needles  all  over  him  —truly 
an  ugly  customer  to  make  acquaintance  with 
under  water.     Henry  presented  the  crab  to  the 

ii2      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

Sunderland  Museum,  where  it  may  be  seen  in  a 
case  to  the  left  of  the  entrance. 

One  of  the  worst  of  his  tasks  as  a  diver  has 
been  the  recovery  of  dead  bodies,  a  task  which  he 
always  willingly  undertook  without  thought  of 
fee  or  reward,  and  he  has  searched  the  river  for 
days  rather  than  tell  the  sorrowing  relatives  that 
the  search  was  hopeless.  He  had  many  grue- 
some adventures  while  at  this  work,  but  as  no 
good  purpose  could  be  served  by  recounting 
such  cases,  they  may  be  passed  without  further 

But  here  are  a  couple  of  incidents  of  a  dif- 
ferent character.  The  account  of  the  first  is 
taken  from  the  Sunderland  Echo  of  March  9th, 

"On  Saturday  evening  while  the  daughter  of 
the  captain  of  a  screw  steamer  then  lying  in  the 
South  Dock  at  No.  3  drops,  was  proceeding  on 
shore  from  the  ship,  she  slipped  and  fell  from  the 
gangway  into  the  dock.  The  young  lady  was 
speedily  recovered,  but  it  was  found  that  in  her 
fright  she  had  dropped  a  small  leather  bag  contain- 
ing a  considerable  sum  of  money.  [The  amount 
was  ^47.]  After  several  vain  endeavours  to  re- 
cover the  treasure,  the  services  of  Mr.  Henry  Watts 
were   obtained  yesterday  morning,   and  in  a  very 


few  minutes  after  he  descended  into  the  water  he 
reappeared  with  the  bag  and  its  contents,  and  had 
the  pleasure  of  returning  them  to  the  owner,  who 
had  watched  his  proceedings  from  the  dock  side." 

This  report  omits  one  or  two  essential  facts. 
First,  that  he  was  asked  to  recover  the  bag  on 
the  Sunday  but  refused,  though  he  willingly 
went  down  on  the  Monday  ;  and  second,  that 
he  received  nothing  but  the  bare  diver's  fee  for 
his  services,  which  was  paid  to  him  in  the  cap- 
tain's presence,  after  the  money  had  been  count- 
ed over  in  the  office  of  Mr.  Atkinson,  the  traffic 
manager  for  the  R.  W.  C. 

Even  that,  however,  was  better  treatment  than 
he  received  in  the  next  case.  The  schooner 
"  Susan,"  of  Whitstable,  was  sunk  at  the  Ferry 
boat  landing,  and  Mr.  Watts  was  engaged  to 
raise  her.  Before  he  commenced  the  captain 
came  and,  with  the  plea  of  being  "  very  hard 
up,"  begged  Henry  to  go  down  into  the  state 
room  and  try  to  get  £6  in  gold  that  was  in  his 
bed  berth,  also  a  suit  of  pilot  cloth,  a  watch  and 
chain,  a  pair  of  valuable  glasses  and  a  ring. 
The  obliging  Henry  went  down,  and  at  the  risk 
of  his  life  broke  open    the    state    room   door, 

ii4     LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

searched  the  place  till  he  found  the  articles, 
brought  them  up  and  delivered  them  at  the 
Commissioners'  offices.  The  captain  called  the 
next  day  and  got  them,  but  never  so  much  as 
thanked  Henry  for  the  risk  and  trouble  he  had 

On  one  occasion  he  was  sent  for  to  attend  to 
the  Maryport  Dock  gates,  and  while  working 
under  the  water  a  piece  blew  out  of  the  air  pipe, 
there  being  a  faulty  place  in  the  pipe  and  the 
pressure  of  air  being  too  strong  for  it.  He  was 
drawn  to  the  surface  just  in  the  nick  of  time  to 
save  his  life. 

Among  the  old  letters  in  the  possession  of 
Mr.  Watts  is  one  signed  by  a  Mr.  J.  Lonsdale, 
and  dated  May  23rd,  1877,  in  which  the  writer 
thanks  Henry  most  sincerely  for  having  saved 
his  life  a  few  days  previously.  The  matter  is 
worth  a  little  more  detail  than  is  given  in  the 

On  May  20th,  1877,  Henry  was  working  op- 
posite Mr.  Potts's  yard,  lifting  the  steam  tug 
11  WTansbeck,"  and  among  those  helping  him 
was  his  cousin,  John  Lonsdale.  While  the 
work   was  in  progress  Lonsdale  somehow  be- 


came  entangled  in  a  chain  attached  to  a  heavy 
pair  of  stone  clips.  These  had  got  round  his 
legs  and  he  fell  overboard  with  them  so  fixed,  the 
length  of  heavy  chain  dragging  him  down  to 
the  bottom  and  preventing  every  effort  to 
rise  to  the  surface.  Henry  looked  round  just 
in  time  to  see  Lonsdale  disappear  under  the 
water,  and  he  immediately  dived  after  him. 
He  released  him  from  the  chain  that  held  him, 
brought  him  to  the  surface  and  on  board — this 
being  not  the  least  difficult  of  his  many  plucky 

An  amusing  incident  of  his  diving  life  is  re- 
membered by  some  of  the  older  inhabitants  of 
Millfield.  Near  Rutland  Street  there  was  for- 
merly a  burn  running  through  some  workmen's 
allotment  gardens,  and  once  during  a  heavy  rain 
the  drains  there  became  choked,  and  Mr.  Watts 
was  sent  for  to  go  down  and  remove  the  ob- 
struction, the  flood  having  become  dangerous 
as  the  water  had  risen  to  sixteen  feet.  The  ob- 
struction was  caused  by  a  fearful  collection  of 
dead  dogs  and  cats,  tin  cans  and  refuse  of  vari- 
ous kinds.  A  huge  crowd  had  gathered  to  see 
the  novel  sight  of  a  diver  at  work  in  his  full 

n6      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

diving  dress  in  a  street,  and  when  Harry  came 
up  and  saw  them,  he,  as  soon  as  his  helmet  was 
removed,  u  improved  the  occasion"  by  deliver- 
ing an  address  on  temperance ! 

This  chapter  may  appropriately  finish  with  a 
couple  of  incidents  showing  his  bravery  and  re- 
sourcefulness under  most  trying  circumstances. 

A  steamer  which  had  been  on  the  rocks  was 
taken  into  the  South  Dock  and  placed  under 
No.  6  drop,  Henry  being  sent  down  to  ascer- 
tain the  extent  of  the  damage.  While  he  was 
under  her  she  settled  down  and  suddenly 
listed  over  on  to  the  side  under  which  he 
was  working,  thus  jamming  him  into  the  mud. 
Luckily  there  was  plenty  of  mud,  some  three 
to  four  feet  of  it ;  but  think  of  being  in  such 
a  position  with  a  heavy  ship  pinning  one 
down !  He  did  not  lose  his  head,  however, 
but  made  the  danger  signal  to  those  above, 
who  tried  to  pull  him  up,  and  he  seconded 
their  efforts  by  scratching  and  scrambling  his 
way  through  the  horrible  mud  till  he  got  clear 
of  the  ship  and  so  came  to  the  surface,  after 
a  most  exhausting  trial  of  his  strength  and 


And  now  let  the  reader  reconstruct  for  him- 
self the  following  scene  : — About  nine  o'clock 
at  night  in  the  winter  of  1893,  something  was 
found  to  be  wrong  with  the  dock  gates  at  the 
South  outlet,  and  Henry  had  to  go  down 
and  put  it  right.  He  was  working  under 
a  depth  of  about  twenty-five  feet  of  water,  and 
had  to  be  guided  mainly,  if  not  entirely,  by  his 
sense  of  touch,  for  he  was  in  pitchy  darkness. 
In  some  way,  probably  by  the  action  of  the 
swell  of  the  water,  he  lost  his  signal  rope,  and 
in  feeling  about  for  it  his  left  hand  got  into  a 
block  through  which  a  chain  ran  and  which  was 
being  slowly  hauled  up  by  a  hydraulic  machine. 
In  a  moment  his  fingers  were  drawn  into  the 
block,  and  thus  held  fast,  what  was  he  to  do  ? 
There  was  no  possibility  of  help,  and  he  had 
to  decide  quickly  how  to  extricate  himself. 
His  free  hand  was  hurriedly  swept  round  in  a 
vain  search  for  the  signal  rope,  and  then — one 
shudders  to  think  of  it — he  lifted  himself  so 
that  the  whole  of  his  weight  and  the  weight  of 
his  heavy  diving  things  came  upon  the  im- 
prisoned hand,  and  with  a  great  wrench  he  tore 
it    away,    taking   off    part   of   one   finger   and 

n8       LIFE    OF  HARRY  WATTS 

seriously  injuring  another.  Then  he  came 
up,  bleeding  fearfully,  and  was  taken  to  the  In- 
firmary to  be  attended  to. 

He  tells  how  before  going  down  on  this  occa- 
sion he  left  a  message  with  his  attendants  that 
if  his  wife#  came  to  ask  how  long  he  would  be, 
they  were  to  say  about  twenty  minutes  if  all 
went  well.  His  wife  did  go  ;  she  received  the 
message  and  went  home  to  prepare  supper. 
But  no  sooner  had  she  entered  the  house  than 
she  felt  something  was  wrong,  and  she  knelt 
and  prayed  again  and  again  "  O  Lord,  save  our 
Harry!"  "An'  at  that  verra  time,"  says  Harry, 
"Aw  was  under  the  watter  prayin'  ti  God  for 
relief  fra  my  peril." 

The  result  of  this  accident  was  blood-poison- 
ing, and,  as  he  expressed  it,  "Aw  wes  black  and 
blue  fra  th'  croon  o'  me  heed  ti  th'  sole  o'  me 
fut !"  He  was  eight  months  ill,  and  during 
that  time,  such  was  the  estimation  in  which  he 
was  held,  people  came  from  all  over  the  king- 
dom to  see  him,  one  gentleman  from  as  far  as 
Toronto,  Canada. 

He  was  an  out-patient  at  the  Infirmary,  and 

*  Mr.  Watts  lost  his  second  wife  in  1884,  and  in  1887  married 
Mrs.  Dorothy  Jane  Hunter,  his  present  wife. 


with  his  usual  determination  he  would  walk  to 
the  Infirmary  to  see  the  doctor. 

One  night,  before  going  to  the  Infirmary,  he 
fainted.  He  told  this  to  the  doctor,  who  said, 
"Well,  now,  Harry,  you  must  take  a  glass  of 
hot  milk,  as  hot  as  you  can  take  it,  and  you 
must  have  a  little  rum  in  it  too." 

"What!"  exclaimed  Harry,  "What  de  ye 
say,  doctor,  some  rum  ?  Nay,  nay,  it  did  me 
ower  much  harm  i'  me  young  days,  an'  aw'll 
niver  touch't  ageyn." 

Another  doctor  was  called  in  for  consultation 
and  agreed  that  the  hot  milk  with  the  rum  in  it 
was  the  proper  thing  for  the  patient,  but  the 
patient's  will  was  stronger  than  the  doctors' 
arguments,  and  he  steadily  refused  to  touch  it. 
Finally  he  took  the  hot  milk  without  the  rum. 

"And  what  cured  you  after  all,  Henry?"  he 
was  asked. 

"The  Lord  cured  me,"  was  the  fervent 
answer.  "  I  lifted  my  hands  ti  God  an'  prayed 
ti  Him,  an'  I  had  prayin'  people  aboot  me,  an' 
He  heard  me  ;  an'  that's  how  I  got  cured," 

And  when  Science  has  said  all  it  can  say  on 
such  a  matter,  it  will  still  be  short  of  a  cure  as 
efficacious  as  a  simple  faith  like  that. 



Service  without  reward  is  punishment. — Old  Proverb. 

THERE  is  a  hackneyed  platitude  to  the 
effect  that  virtue  is  its  own  reward,  but 
it  is  safe  to  say  that  the  average  man  does  not 
find  such  a  result  sufficient.  It  might  be  so  in 
an  ideal  world  inhabited  by  ideal  people,  but  in 
this  work-a-day  world,  in  addition  to  the  ap- 
proval of  our  conscience,  we  love  to  have  the 
approval  of  our  fellows  and  to  know  that  our 
acts  are  appreciated,  and  especially  is  this 
the  case  when  we  are  actuated  by  altruistic 
motives.  This  is,  of  course,  a  form  of  vanity, 
but  then  vanity  is  almost  a  universal  failing. 
It  is  not  alone  the  desire  to  be  thought  well  of, 
or  to  receive  praise  ;  it  shows  itself  in  the  most 
varied  forms.  No  doubt  there  are  those,  who, 


"  Humble  Allen,  with  an  awkward  shame, 
Do  good  by  stealth  and  blush  to  find  it  fame," 

but  these  are  the  rare  exceptions.  The  vast 
majority  find  the  scriptural  injunction,  "  Let 
not  your  right  hand  know  what  your  left  hand 
doeth,"  a  very  difficult  task. 

The  more  honour  then  to  Henry  Watts  that 
he  did  this.  Rightly  considered,  it  is  the  main 
factor  in  his  humble  career,  the  glory  of  his 
life,  that  for  twenty-seven  years,  from  1839  to 
1866  he  continually  risked  his  life  to  save 
others  without  any  reward  or  recognition  of 
his  services.  In  that  time  he  had  saved 
twenty-three  lives,  nearly  one  life  for  every 

Here  is  a  copy  of  the  first  public  acknow- 
ledgment of  his  services  received  by  Mr. 
Watts  : — 

At  a  meeting  of  the  Royal  Humane  Society  holden 
at  their  office,  4,  Trafalgar  Square,  on  Wednesday 
the  17th  day  of  October,  1866.  Present,  Thomas 
Eld  Baker,  Esq.,  Treasurer,  in  the  chair.  It  was 
resolved  unanimously,  that  the  sincere  thanks  of 
this  Committee  inscribed  on  parchment  are  hereby 
presented  to  Henry  Watts  for  his  courage  and 
humanity  in  having  on  the  5th  of  September,  1866, 

122       LIFE   OF    HARRY  WATTS 

jumped  into  the  river  Wear,  Sunderland,  to  the  re- 
lief of  William  Hall,  who  had  fallen  therein  and 
whose  life  he  saved. 

Lambton  Young,   Secretary. 
Thomas  Eld  Baker,  Chairman. 

But  the  honour  of  really  calling  public  atten- 
tion and  appreciation  to  the  services  of  Mr. 
Watts  belongs  to  a  local  society,  The  Diamond 
Swimming  Club. 

Among  other  newspaper  cuttings  preserved 
by  Mr.  Watts,  is  one  without  the  name  of  the 
paper  and  undated,  reporting  the  presentation 
of  prizes  by  the  then  Mayor  (Aid.  Gourley),  in 
connection  with  the  Swimming  Gala  of  the 
Diamond  Swimming  Club.  At  the  end  of  the 
presentation  ceremony  the  members  sat  down 
to  a  supper,  at  which  "  The  Mayor  said  it 
seemed  rather  strange  that  no  effort  had  been 
made  to  bring  the  case  of  Mr.  Henry  Watts 
for  saving  the  lives  of  twenty-five  individuals 
under  the  notice  of  the  Humane  Society,  and 
he  should  do  all  he  could  to  procure  Mr. 
Watts  some  tangible  recognition  of  his  gallant 


The  full  name  of  the  society  was  the  "  Dia- 
mond Swimming  Club  and  Humane  Society, 
Sunderland,"  and  it  was,  as  I  learn  from  one  of 
its  certificates,  established  September,  1867. 
Among  the  objects  of  the  Club  were  the  pro- 
motion of  swimming  among  young  men,  the 
holding  of  Swimming  Galas,  of  which  a  num- 
ber was  held  in  the  High  Street  baths,  and 
others  at  the  South  Outlet  and  Hendon  Docks, 
and  the  giving  of  rewards,  medals  and  certifi- 
cates, to  those  who  rescued  persons  from  drown- 
ing. The  late  Mr.  James  G.  Campbell,  Printer, 
of  Press  Lane,  Sunderland,  was  the  honorary 
secretary,  and  Mr.  John  Robe,  well  known  in 
local  history  as  a  swimmer  and  life-saver,  was 
the  swimming  master.  One  who  remembers 
the  club  and  its  doings,  says  that  among  its 
famous  swimmers  were  Mr.  William  Robinson, 
who  was  not  only  famous  as  a  swimmer  but  as 
an  athlete,  and  who  afterwards  became  landlord 
of  the  "Argo  Frigate"  in  West  Wear  Street;  Mr. 
Joseph  Bewick,  at  that  time  connected  with  the 
Customs,  who  afterwards  '  discovered '  Mr. 
Morton,  the  champion  swimmer  ;  Mr.  Sam 
Skeed  and   Mr.  W.  Shevill.     There  was  also  a 

i24       LIFE    OF    HARRY  WATTS 

man  called  Johnston,  a  sort  of  dare-devil  fel- 
low, who  afterwards  went  into  the  American 
Navy.  Mr.  W.  J.  Branfoot  was  also  a  promin- 
ent member  of  the  club,  and  for  many  years 
held  the  record  for  Sunderland  for  certain  dis- 
tances. The  swimming  drawers  of  the  club- 
members  were  made  of  white  linen  with  a  black 
diamond  worked  on  the  hip.  The  meeting 
place  of  the  club  was  at  the  High  Street  Baths. 
The  following  is  a  copy  of  a  cutting  from  a 
newspaper  which  is  preserved  in  Mr.  Watts's 
Journal,  but  without  name  or  date  attached. 
It  appears  to  have  been  cut  from  the  Sunder- 
land Times : — 

"  Presentation  to  Mr.  Henry  Watts. — On 
Tuesday  evening-  a  very  interesting  meeting  took 
place  at  the  Gospel  Hall,  Russell  Street,  on  which 
occasion  the  bronze  medal  of  the  Royal  Humane 
Society  and  a  gold  medal  presented  by  the  Diamond 
Swimming  Club  and  Humane  Society  were  pre- 
sented to  Mr.  Watts,  as  a  token  of  appreciation  of 
his  bravery  in  saving  25  persons  from  drowning. 
The  chair  was  occupied  by  His  Worship  the  Mayor 
(Mr.  John  Crosby),  who  called  upon  Mr.  J.  Candlish 
to  make  the  presentation. 

11  Mr.  Candlish  said  he  expected  his  duties  that 
evening  to  be  light,  inasmuch  as  he  had  relied  on 


his  prerogative  as  senior  member,  to  be  relieved  of 
the  heavier  portion  of  his  duties  by  his  colleague, 
Mr.  Gourley,  who  was,  he  believed,  engaged  in  an 
interesting  errand  and  one  which  his  lady  friends 
present  would  appreciate.  (Laughter.)  He  had 
great  pleasure  in  presenting  Mr.  Watts  with  the 
testimonials,  one  of  which  was  a  bronze  medal  and 
the  other  was  of  greater  intrinsic  value.  He 
trusted  Mr.  Watts  would  long  be  spared  to  per- 
severe in  his  course  of  usefulness. 

1 'Mr.  Watts  in  accepting  the  testimonials  gave 
some  interesting  details  respecting  his  adventures, 
and  said  that,  notwithstanding  many  discourage- 
ments he  had  experienced,  he  would  continue  to  do 
as  he  had  done,  for  after  all  he  had  only  done  his 

"Among  the  votes  of  thanks,  Mr.  J.  B.  Hutchin- 
son proposed  a  vote  of  thanks  to  the  Mayor  for 
presiding,  and  said  that  the  real  strength  of  the 
town  lay,  not  so  much  in  the  wealth  and  fashion, 
as  in  the  patriotism,  honesty,  and  bravery  of  its 
inhabitants,  of  whom  Mr.  Watts  might  be  viewed 
as  a  representative. 

"  Mr.  J.  H.  Campbell  seconded  the  proposal 
which,  on  being  put  by  Mr.  J.  G.  Campbell,  to 
whose  efforts  the  acknowledgement  of  merit  is  to 
be  attributed,  was  carried  unanimously. 

"  His  Worship  expressed  his  great  pleasure  in 
being  present  on  that  occasion,  and  said  that   he 

126     LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

would  have  regretted  to  have  missed  seeing  and 
hearing  what  he  had  enjoyed  that  evening.  The 
gold  medal  bore  the  following  inscription  : — 

"  'Diamond  Swimming  Club  and  Humane  Society. 
Presented    to    Henry  Watts  for  his    courage    and 
humanity  in   saving   the  lives    of  25  persons  from 
drowning.      1868.'" 
The     above    report,    like    one    given    in    an 
earlier  chapter,  has  missed  an  essential  point. 
The  medal  from   the    Royal    Humane  Society 
was  obtained   mainly  through   the  exertions  of 
Mr.  J.  G.  Campbell,  and  after  repeated  applica- 
tions had  been  made  by  Captain  Heard,  R.N., 
and   when   it   was  found  that   the   medal    after 
all   was   only   the   bronze   medal  of  the   Royal 
Humane  Society  which  had  been  awarded,  the 
Diamond    Swimming    Club,  thinking   that   this 
was   not  of  sufficient   merit  for  Henry's  nume- 
rous life-saving  services,  promoted  a  public  sub- 
scription to  provide  him  with  a  gold  medal,  and 
this  with  entire  success,  the  two  medals  being 
presented  together  as  stated  above. 

During  the  afternoon  ot  July  21st,  1869,  a 
carpenter  named  James  Watt,  who  was  working 
with  Henry,  fell  from  No.  2  cranefloat  into  the 
South   Dock   Basin.      He  could  not  swim,  and 


was  drowning,  when  Watts  jumped  into  the 
water,  swam  to  him  and  then  swam  to  a  keel 
with  him.  This  was  the  twenty-sixth  life  he 
had  saved,  and  for  this  the  parchment  certificate 
of  the  Royal  Humane  Society  was  presented  to 
him.     This  certificate  reads  as  follows  : — 

At  a  meeting  of  the  Committee  of  the  Royal 
Humane  Society  holden  at  their  office  4,  Trafalgar 
Square,  on  Tuesday  17th  day  of  August  1869. 
Present,  William  Hawes,  Esq.,  Treasurer,  in  the 
Chair.  It  was  resolved  unanimously  that  the  hon- 
orary testimonial  of  this  society  inscribed  on  parch- 
ment be  hereby  presented  to  Henry  Watts  for  his 
courage  and  humanity  in  having  on  21st  July  1869, 
jumped  into  the  water  at  South  Dock,  Sunderland, 
to  the  relief  of  James  Watt,  who  had  fallen  over- 
board and  whose  life  he  saved. 

W.   Hawes,  Chairman. 
Lambton  Young,   Secretary. 

This  certificate  was  presented  to  him  in  the 
Theatre  Royal,  Sunderland,  at  an  entertain- 
ment which  was  given  for  the  benefit  of  the 
funds  of  the  Diamond  Swimming  Club.  The 
Mayor  (Mr.  W.  Thompson),  made  the  present- 
ation, and  in  doing  so  complimented  Mr. 
Watts  upon  his  bravery,  this  being  his  twenty- 

128       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

sixth  successful  effort  at  saving  life,  and  pre- 
sented him  with  the  honorary  certificate  on 
parchment  of  the  Royal  Humane  Society. 

The  usual  votes  of  thanks  were  proposed  by 
Mr.  J.  G.  Campbell,  the  secretary  of  the  club, 
and  seconded  by  Mr.  John  Robe,  the  swimming 

The  next  presentation  to  Mr.  Watts  took 
place  on  November  30th,  1875,  when  the 
teachers  and  scholars  of  Brougham  Street  Sun- 
day School  gave  him  a  large  illustrated  Bible, 
"  As  a  token  of  their  admiration  of  his  bravery 
as  displayed  on  several  occasions  in  rescuing 
those  in  danger  of  drowning."  The  Bible 
bears  a  rather  long  inscription  on  the  fly-leaf 
eulogising  the  recipient,  and  is  signed  by  Ezra 
Miller  and  George  Crofton,  Superintendents, 
and  J.  B.  Kipling,  Secretary  of  the  Sunday 

During  the  same  year  Mr.  Watts  was  the  re- 
cipient of  a  gold  medal  bearing  the  following 
inscription  : — 

"  Presented  to  Mr.  Henry  Watts  by  Mr.  Richard- 
son for  searching  the  river  Wear  and  recovering 
the  body  of  his  grandson.      1875." 


The  inscription  on  the  reverse  reads  : — 

"  Mr.  Henry  Watts,  diver  at  the  recent  Tay 
Bridge  disaster,  has  saved  the  lives  of  35  persons 
from  drowning,  besides  rendering  valuable  life-boat 
and  rocket-line  services.     4th  of  August,  1884." 

Another  medal  was  presented  to  Mr.  Watts 
during  1875.  From  the  time  of  his  conversion 
Mr.  Watts  had  been  an  ardent  advocate  of  tem- 
perance and  an  enthusiastic  worker  in  that 
cause,  and  a  local  Temperance  Society,  the 
United  (or  Naval)  Temperance  Crusaders,  in 
appreciation  of  his  life-saving  services,  and  as 
a  token  of  their  esteem,  presented  him  with  a 
fine  gold  medal. 

The  reader  may  remember  the  case  of  the 
lad,  Edward  Bolton,  through  whom  Henry 
almost  lost  his  life,  owing  to  the  lad  clasping  his 
rescuer  round  the  legs.  This  brave  rescue  by 
Henry  secured  for  him  the  Royal  Humane 
Society's  vellum  certificate,  and  a  handsome 
gold  watch  subscribed  for  by  friends  in  Sunder- 
land.    The  certificate  states  : — 

At    a    meeting   of    the    Royal     Humane    Society 
held  at  their  office,  4,  Trafalgar  Square,  on  the  21st 
day  of  September,  1875,  present  John  March  Case, 

i3o      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

Esq.,  in  the  chair,  it  was  resolved  unanimously 
that  the  courage  and  humanity  displayed  by  Henry 
Watts  in  having,  on  the  18th  of  August  1875, 
jumped  into  the  river  Wear  at  Wearmouth,  to  the 
relief  of  Edward  Bolton  who  had  fallen  therein 
and  whose  life  he  saved,  calls  for  the  admiration  of 
the  Committee  and  justly  entitles  him  to  the  honor- 
ary testimonial  of  this  Committee  inscribed  on 
vellum,  which  is  hereby  awarded,  he  having  re- 
ceived the  bronze  medal  in  1868. 

J.   M.   Case,  Chairman. 

Argyll,   President. 

Lambton  Young,  Secretary. 

This  presentation  took  place  on  December 
14th,  1875,  under  the  auspices  of  the  Sunder- 
land Amateur  Athletes,  at  "  A  private  entertain- 
ment by  members  of  the  Club,"  which  proceed- 
ing and  the  fact  that  Aid.  Kayll,  who  made  the 
presentation,  occupied  a  large  part  of  the  time 
with  an  address  on  "  Athletics,  Ancient  and 
Modern,"  called  forth  some  caustic  remarks 
from  the  Editor  of  the  Sunderland  Daily  Echo, 
as  will  be  seen  presently.  The  Mayor,  (Coun- 
cillor John  Nicholson),  presided,  and  there  was 
a  long  array  of  prominent  local  ladies  and  gentle- 
men present.  At  the  close  of  his  remarks  on 
athletics,  Aid.  Kayll  said  that  the  testimonials 


about  to  be  presented  were  to  be  received  by 
an  honest,  hard-working  man,  who  was  a  servant, 
and  one  of  the  best  they  had,  of  the  River 
Wear  Commissioners,  for  his  gallantry  in  hav- 
ing saved  the  lives  of  twelve  boys,  two  women, 
and  fourteen  men,*  besides  rendering  other  ser- 
vices. On  behalf  of  the  Royal  Humane  Society, 
he  had  great  pleasure  in  presenting  Henry 
Watts  with  the  handsomely  framed  certificate 
as  a  recognition  of  the  courage  and  humanity 
displayed  by  him  in  going  to  the  relief  of 
Edward  Bolton,  at  Sunderland.  He  likewise 
had  great  pleasure  in  presenting  him  with  a 
gold  watch  and  chain,  which  had  been  sub- 
scribed for  by  friends  in  Sunderland,  who  were 
proud  of  their  fellow  townsman,  as  an  acknow- 
ledgment of  his  courage  in  saving  life  from 

"  Mr.  Watts,  who  was  received  with  prolonged 
applause,  said  he  had  great  pleasure  in  standing  up 
to  return  thanks  for  the  grand  testimonials  with 
which  he  had  been  presented,  but  he  could  scarcely 
express  the  feelings  of  gratitude  he  felt  towards 
his  friends.     Truly  they  had  been  kind  to  him  and 

*  The  speaker  was  wrong  here,  as  the  records  show  that  by 
August,  1875,  Henry  had  saved  thirty  lives.  See  statement  in 
the  leading  article  from  the  Echo  of  the  following  day. 

132      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

had  made  him  a  handsome  reward,  but  at  the  same 
time  he  assured  them  that  at  the  time  of  rescue,  he 
had  never  had  such  a  thing-  in  his  thoughts  ;  he 
never  thought  of  money,  watches,  medals,  or  cer- 
tificates, his  only  desire  was  to  save  life.  (Loud 
applause.)  After  alluding  to  one  or  two  cases 
where  he  had  been  instrumental  in  saving  life,  Mr. 
Watts,  in  hoping  that  he  might  be  spared  to  rescue 
30  more  lives,  said  they  might  depend  that  when- 
ever danger  was  about  he  would  be  at  his  post  ever 
ready  to  do  his  duty. 

M  At  the  close  of  the  meeting,  Watts  was  greeted 
with  three  cheers  and  the  meeting  thus  terminated." 

A  short  leader  in  the  Sunderland  Daily  Echo 
of  December  15th,  1875,  said  : — 

"  Henry  Watts. — Sunderland  has  taken  to 
honouring  its  heroes.  While  not  forgetful  of 
her  Havelock  and  Candlish,  nor  wholly  unmind- 
ful of  her  Jack  Crawfords,  it  is  well  that  she 
should  offer  a  tribute  to  one  of  her  living 
worthies  in  the  person  of  Henry  Watts.  The 
modest  merits  of  this  good  citizen  may,  so  far  as 
the  public  are  concerned,  be  summed  up  in  the 
simple  statement  that  he  has  saved  upwards  of  30 
lives  from  drowning.  When  we  consider  what  are 
the  awards  usually  apportioned  by  mankind  to  the 
destroyers  of  their  species,  the  presentation  of  a 
gold  watch   and  chain,   accompanied  by  a  framed 


parchment  from  the  Royal  Humane  Society,  in  the 
precincts  of  a  disused  School  Room,  must  appear 
an  inadequate  acknowledgment  of  services  so  sig- 
nal. But  we  are  new  at  the  business  and  shall 
improve  as  we  go  forward  ;  and  when  we  find  that 
the  honour  of  giving  form  and  reality  to  this  idea 
belongs  to  the  young  men  of  the  Gymnasium  Club 
we  cannot  but  view  it  as  a  hopeful  augury  of  the 
future  of  this  town.  As  virtue  is  admired  so  it 
will  be  practised.  Is  it,  then,  too  much  to  hope 
that  on  some  future  occasion  of  a  similar  character, 
so  calculated  to  sow  in  the  breasts  of  our  youth  the 
seeds  of  generous  aims  and  laudable  ambition,  the 
chief  magistrate,  fitly  supported,  may  be  found  dis- 
pensing the  tokens  of  public  approval  in  a  Hall 
worthy  of  the  occasion,  and  that  the  opportunity 
may  be  seized  of  enforcing  the  noble  lesson  of  un- 
selfishness, virtue  and  philanthropy  in  a  manner 
more  befitting  than  as  an  appendix  to  an  exhibition 
of  Juvenile  Sport  and  an  essay  on  the  antiquity  of 
the  science  of  gymnastics." 

Remembering  that  Mr.  Watts  had  been  risk- 
ing his  life  to  save  others  for  over  a  quarter  of 
a  century  without  any  recognition  whatever, 
and  that  he  had  in  that  time  rescued  some  30 
persons  from  drowning,  the  comments  of  the 
Echo  seem  none  too  strong.  Obviously  the 
town  was  'new  at  the  business'  of  honouring 

i34     LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

its  heroes,  and  certainly  did  not  go  about  it 
in  a  manner  befitting  the  merits  of  the  case.  It 
must  be  remembered,  too,  that  at  the  time  the 
above  was  written,  no  monument  of  any  kind 
had  been  raised  to  Jack  Crawford,  and  even  his 
grave  in  Sunderland  Church  Yard  lay  unmarked. 
The  writer  of  the  above  leading  article  proved 
to  be  a  true  prophet  when  he  said  "We  shall 
improve  as  we  go  forward."  The  town  did  im- 
prove in  these  matters,  and  in  due  time  the  seed 
sown  by  that  short  but  emphatic  leader  brought 
forth  fruit. 



Honour  and  shame  from  no  condition  rise  ; 

Act  well  your  part,  there  all  the  honour  lies.  — Pope. 

The  rank  is  but  the  guinea  stamp  ; 

The  man's  the  gowd  for  a'  that. — Burns. 

IT  is  now  the  pleasant  duty  of  the  writer  of 
these  pages  to  record  a  presentation  to  Mr. 
Watts,  made,  on  behalf  of  the  seamen  of  the 
town,  by  the  man  of  all  others  in  Sunderland 
whose  eloquence  enabled  him  to  treat  the  sub- 
ject in  a  worthy  manner. 

In  1877  the  sailors  of  the  East  End  of  Sun- 
derland, remembering  that  Henry  Watts  was 
one  of  themselves,  though  not  then  working  as  a 
mariner,  and  proud  of  his  record,  determined  to 
show  their  appreciation  of  him  by  presenting 
him  with  a  silver  medal.  Mr.  Samuel  Storey 
was  Mayor  at  the  time,  and  readily  consented 
to  make  the  presentation,  which  he  did  in  one 

136      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

of  those  forceful  and  able  speeches,  of  which 
he  is  such  a  master.  The  report  of  this  meet- 
ing at  which  the  presentation  was  made,  and  the 
main  parts  of  Mr.  Storey's  speech,  are  well 
worth  preserving. 

From  the  Sunderland  Daily  Echo,  Saturday, 
May  19th,  1877  : — 

"Presentation  to  Mr.  Henry  Watts. — Last 
night  Mr.  Watts,  one  of  the  River  Wear  Com- 
missioners' divers,  well  known  for  his  efforts 
in  saving-  life,  was  presented  by  the  Mayor,  Mr. 
Samuel  Storey,  on  behalf  of  the  sailors  of  the  East 
End  of  Sunderland,  with  a  silver  medal,  as  a  token 
of  their  appreciation  of  his  many  kind  services  to 
them.  The  presentation  took  place  in  the  Arcade 
Long  Room,  High  Street  East,  where  there  was  a 
large  attendance  of  seamen  and  others.  Mr.  Watts 
appeared  before  the  audience  with  several  medals 
on  his  breast,  which  he  had  received  on  different 
occasions  for  saving  life. 

"  In  making  the  presentation  the  Mayor  said  he 
had  had  many  unpleasant  duties  to  perform  while 
he  had  been  Mayor.  He  had  also  had  many  pleasant 
duties,  and  many  which  he  thought  had  conferred 
an  honour  upon  him,  rather  than  upon  those  who 
had  kindly  asked  him  to  do  anything  at  those  meet- 
ings, and  he  must  say  that  the  object  for  which  they 
were  assembled  that  night  was  one  which  enabled 


him  to  say  that  he  estimated,  not  that  he  was  doing 
Henry  Watts  an  honour,  but  that  they  had  con- 
ferred an  honour  upon  him,  as  being  the  person 
chosen  to  present  that  medal  to  him.  Virtue  was 
of  no  rank  ;  and  good  deeds  were  not  performed  in 
this  world  only  by  wealthy  and  distinguished  people. 
On  the  contrary,  there  was  as  much  virtue,  as  much 
benevolence,  as  much  self-denying  willinghood 
amongst  poor  people  as  there  was  amongst  rich 
people,  and  many  a  noble  deed  had  been  done  by  a 
man  wearing  a  fustian  jacket  and  having  perhaps  a 
pair  of  horny  dirty  hands.  And  it  seemed  to  him 
that  it  was  one  of  the  most  honourable  things  a 
nation  could  do,  and  that  those  who  were  in 
authority  in  a  nation  could  do,  to  honour  good 
deeds  and  self-denying  actions  whenever  they  saw 
them  and  whoever  might  be  the  performer.  The 
bulk  of  the  rewards  and  honours  conferred  in  this 
country  were  absorbed  by  men  of  wealth  and  men 
of  education  and  position,  but  there  were  as  heroic 
deeds  performed,  deeds  of  as  great  service  to  the 
country  and  as  honourable  to  the  persons  who 
achieved  them  as  any  of  those  other  deeds  that 
were  so  amply  and  fully  rewarded.  Those  who  did 
these  deeds  lived  in  the  common  walks  of  life. 
Their  fame  seldom  was  trumpeted  in  the  news- 
papers, and  never  heard  of  at  Court  ;  they  never 
had  a  place  in  Parliament.  But  they  had  a  more 
satisfactory  reward  than  these,  namely,  a  know- 
ledge that  they  had  performed  good  deeds  and  by 

i38       LIFE   OF    HARRY  WATTS 

the  performance  of  these  good  deeds  they  gained 
the  respect  and  gratitude  of  those  around  them. 
(Applause.)  Now  they  would  see  the  point  of  his 
remarks,  when  he  mentioned  the  name  of  Henry 
Watts,  who  was  one  of  themselves.  He,  Mr. 
Watts,  was  not  a  lord  and  never  would  be  one  ; 
he  was  not  what  the  world  called  a  great  man,  yet 
he  (the  speaker)  ventured  to  say  that  there  were 
very  few  lords,  and  very  few  so-called  great  men, 
who  could  say  that  thirty-two  times  in  their  life 
they  had  performed  so  eminent  and  noble  a  service 
as  that  of  saving  a  human  life.  (Applause.)  Yet 
their  friend  there,  who  was  one  of  themselves, 
had,  on  thirty-two  different  occasions  performed  so 
honourable  and  noble  and  self-denying  an  act. 
Well,  Mr.  Watts  had  not  been  without  reward  for 
these  acts.  He  looked  at  him  there  and  saw  him 
be-medalled  about  the  breast  as  if  he  was  some 
grand  old  hero  of  a  hundred  fights.  (Applause.) 
He  had  gained  these  medals,  he  ventured  to  say,  in 
a  much  more  useful  and  honourable  way  than  often 
soldiers  gained  their  medals  in  battle.  Because 
often  soldiers  were  compelled  to  fight  in  a  bad 
cause,  and  at  any  time  their  fighting  entailed  loss 
and  sorrow  and  pain  and  death  for  thousands  and 
tens  of  thousands  of  their  fellow  creatures.  Henry 
Watts's  medals  bore  witness  to  no  loss  of  life  and 
no  sorrow  or  trouble  in  households,  but  they  wit- 
nessed that  he  had  brought  comfort  and  happiness 
to  many  of  those  who  otherwise  would  have  suf- 


fered.  But  he  had  not  only  distinguished  himself 
in  that  way.  He  thought  he  was  correct  in  saying 
that  there  never  was  any  shipwreck  or  disaster  but 
at  which  he  had  been  found  perfectly  willing  to 
suffer  all  the  trouble  and  danger  necessary  in  order 
to  do  good  on  these  occasions  also.  He  had  had 
many  medals  presented  to  him.  The  Government 
and  the  Humane  Society  had  each  recognized  his 
worth  ;  very  many  private  bodies  had  recognized 
his  worth  ;  and  now  the  sailors  in  the  East  End  of 
Sunderland  had  thought  it  would  not  be  an  un- 
worthy thing,  and  he  was  sure  it  was  not,  that  he 
should  wear  upon  his  breast  a  medal  obtained  out 
of  the  earnings  of  working  men.  Therefore  these 
sailors — he  would  call  them  gentlemen,  because 
what  constituted  a  gentleman  was  the  performance 
of  gentlemanly  acts,  and  nothing  could  be  more 
gentlemanly,  nothing  more  becoming  in  the  real 
gentleman  than  to  recognize  the  honourable  charac- 
ter and  conduct  of  his  fellows — these  sailors,  he  said, 
had  contributed  small  sums  towards  that  object, 
and  had  obtained  that  medal  which  was  inscribed 
as  follows  : — 

11  ■  Presented  to  Mr.  Henry  Watts  by  the  Sailors 
of  the  East  End  of  Sunderland,  in  appreciation  of 
his  many  kind  services  to  them.      April,  1877.' 

"The  Mayor  then  pinned  the  medal  to  Mr. 
Watts's  breast,  over  the  others  he  was  wearing, 
amidst  loud  applause,  and  wished  he  might  live  a 

140      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

long,  honourable,  useful  and  manly  life,  that  he 
might  have  health  and  strength  given  to  him,  and 
that  that  might  not  be  the  last  time  when  he  felt 
that  he  lived  in  the  estimation  of  his  fellow  towns- 
men.     (Loud  applause.) 

"Mr.  Watts,  who  was  received  with  cheers, 
sincerely  thanked  those  of  his  friends  in  Sunderland, 
and  expressed  his  deep  gratitude  to  the  Seamen  of 
the  East  End  of  the  town  for  the  handsome  medal 
which  had  been  presented  to  him,  and  for  their 
appreciation  of  his  services.  But  though  he  had 
put  his  life  at  stake  many  times  he  had  done  no 
more  than  his  duty  as  an  Englishman.  In  the 
course  of  some  feeling  observations  he  said  it  was 
true  he  had  saved  32  persons  from  drowning,  and 
in  several  instances  he  had  received  far  higher  and 
more  lasting  rewards  than  could  have  been  con- 
ferred upon  him  by  the  presentation  of  medals.  As 
instances  he  mentioned  the  name  of  a  boy  Maughan 
whose  life  he  had  saved,  and  who  had  afterwards 
himself  saved  many  lives  at  Sierra  Leone.  Another 
young  man  he  had  saved  was  Robert  Wilson,  who, 
he  was  glad  to  say,  was  now  a  member  of  a 
Christian  Church,  and  he  (the  speaker)  was  pleased 
to  see  him  at  the  Jubilee  of  the  Primitive  Methodist 
Sunday  School,  leading  the  children  in  singing  and 
directing  some  hundreds  of  little  ones  in  the  way 
they  should  go.  He  trusted  he  would  still  be 
useful  in  the  future. 


"  On  the  motion  of  Mr.  Brown,  seconded  by  Mr. 
J.  N.  Charlton,  a  vote  of  thanks  to  the  Mayor  was 
carried  with  enthusiasm  ;  three  hearty  cheers  being 
also  given  for  Mr.  Watts." 
Earlier   in   the   same   year  a  special  meeting 
of  the  Local  Marine  Board  was  held  in  their 
office,   Villiers  Street,   for  the  purpose   of  pre- 
senting    Henry    Watts    with    a    bronze    medal 
which  had  been   transmitted  by  the   Board  of 
Trade    in   recognition   of  the  services  he   had 
rendered  in  saving  life    on    various    occasions. 
The  meeting  was  not  in  any  sense  a  public  one. 
The   medal   was   presented   by   the    Chairman, 
Mr.    C.    Hodgson,    with  a  few   words  of  con- 
gratulation and  appreciation  after  he  had  read 
the  following  letter  : — 

Board  of  Trade, 

Whitehall  Gardens, 

6th  January,  1877. 

I  am  directed  by  the  Board  of  Trade  to  transmit 
to  you  the  accompanying  bronze  medal  which  has 
been  awarded  by  them  to  Mr.  Henry  Watts,  in 
recognition  of  his  services  in  saving  lives  from 
drowning  on  various  occasions,  and  I  have  to 
request  you  to  move  the  Local  Marine  Board  to  be 
so  good  as  to  take  steps  for  presenting  it  to  Mr. 
Watts  in  a  suitable  manner. 

142      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

I  have  to  request  that  Mr.   Watts's    receipt    be 
sent  to  this  department. 
I  am, 

Your  obedient  servant, 

J.    B.    SWANSTON. 

It  will  be  seen  that  once  his  work  was 
brought  to  public  notice  there  was  no  lack  of 
recognition  ;  indeed  honours  crowded  upon  him 
from  all  quarters,  and,  considering  all  the  cir- 
cumstances of  the  case,  it  would  not  have  been 
surprising  had  so  much  public  flattery  turned 
his  head  a  little.  But  through  all  this  laudation 
and  be-medaling  he  remained — Henry  Watts, 
the  same  simple,  cheerful,  plucky  workman. 
The  sentence  he  used  in  his  reply  to  the  pre- 
sentation from  the  sailors  of  the  East  End  gives 
the  key  note  to  his  character  during  this  period  : 
"He  had  received  far  higher  and  more  lasting 
rewards  than  could  have  been  conferred  upon 
him  by  the  presentation  of  medals."  He  appre- 
ciated fully  the  honour  his  townsmen  did  him, 
but  to  see  one  of  those  he  had  saved  teaching 
little  children  in  the  Sunday  School  was  a 
greater  joy  to  him  than  the  bestowal  of  some 
decoration  for  himself. 



There  are  some  meannesses  which  are  too  mean  for  ?nen. 

— Thackeray. 

ON  Monday,  August  5th,  1878,  Mr.  Watts 
lent  his  medals  to  the  committee  of  the 
James  Williams  Street  Christian  Lay  Church 
for  exhibition  at  a  bazaar  they  were  holding,  it 
being  felt  that  the  array  of  famous  medals  would 
be  a  great  attraction.  Two  days  later  it  was 
discovered  that  some  one  had  entered  the  pre- 
mises during  the  night  and  stolen  the  whole  of 
the  medals  along  with  some  other  things.  When 
the  theft  became  known  Henry  himself  was 
much  cast  down,  and  there  was  a  feeling  of  deep 
indignation  throughout  the  town  at  this,  as  the 
papers  described  it,  heartless  robbery,  which  in- 
deed it  was.  A  local  paper  gave  the  following 
list  of  the  medals  stolen  : — Gold  medal  from  the 
United  Temperance  Crusaders,  with  a  large 
silver  fastener  attached  ;  Gold  medal  from  the 

i44       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

Diamond  Swimming  Club,  Sunderland  ;  Gold 
medal  presented  to  Mr.  Watts  by  Mr.  Richard- 
son for  searching  the  River  Wear  and  recover- 
ing the  body  of  his  grandson  ;  silver  medal  pre- 
sented by  the  sailors  of  the  East  End  of  Sun- 
derland ;  and  a  bronze  medal  presented  by  the 
Royal  Humane  Society. 

The  Sunderland  Weekly  Times  of  August 
9th,  1878,  spoke  of  the  theft  in  the  following 
terms  : — 

"  We  have  seldom  heard  of  a  more  heartless  and 
unfeeling  robbery  than  that  which  has  deprived  Mr. 
Henry  Watts,  or — as  he  would  better  like  himself 
to  be  called — Harry  Watts  the  life-saver,  of  his 
well-earned  medals.  The  medals,  five  in  number, 
were  on  view  at  the  Christian  Lay  Church  Bazaar 
in  James  Williams  Street,  the  Church  of  which  Mr. 
Watts  is  an  active  and  respected  member,  and  on 
Tuesday  morning  it  was  found  that  someone  had 
broken  into  the  premises  during  the  night,  and 
decamped  with  them  all.  Every  effort  has  since 
been  made  to  obtain  a  clue  to  the  perpetrator  of 
the  heartless  theft,  but  in  vain,  and  much  sympathy 
is  expressed  towards  Mr.  Watts  for  his  loss, 
especially  in  the  east-end  of  the  town,  where  his 
genial  nature  and  unobtrusive  simplicity  of  charac- 
ter have  made  him  a  universal  favourite.     Depend 


upon  it,  the  thief  would  get  little  quarter  there,  for 
the  east-enders  know  whom  to  be  proud  of,  and 
they  recount  Harry's  deeds  with  as  much  pride  and 
as  much  pleasure  as  if  they  had  been  the  chief  actors 
themselves.  And  it  is  no  slight  task  that  Harry 
Watts  has  accomplished.  He  has  saved  thirty- 
three  lives,  and  has  never  yet  shrunk  from  the  task 
when  a  fellow-creature's  life  was  in  danger.  That 
is  true  heroism,  for  it  is  a  terrible  thing  to  get  into 
the  grasp  of  a  drowning  man,  and  it  requires  a  clear 
head  and  strong  arm  to  effect  a  rescue.  Witness 
the  sad  bathing  fatality  at  Hendon  beach  on  Wed- 
nesday, when  a  lad  was  drowned  close  to  the  shore, 
and  two  swimmers  who  went  out  to  assist  him 
barely  escaped  with  their  own  lives.  It  is  a  credit 
to  the  town  that  it  has  such  a  man  in  its  midst  as 
Harry  Watts,  and  we  hope,  if  his  medals  be  not 
recovered,  that  he  will  receive  some  substantial 
token  of  sympathy  at  the  hands  of  his  fellow- 
townsmen  that  may  take  their  place  in  the  eyes  of 
the  possessor,  and  that  may  be  handed  down  as 
heirlooms  to  his  children,  to  be  looked  upon  in 
after  years  with  family  interest  and  pride." 

In  a  leading  article  on  Thursday,  September 

5th,  1878,  the  Sunderland  Daily  Echo  said  : — 

"  The  attention  of  the  town  has   not   a  day   too 

early  been  drawn  to  the  sad  misfortune  which  has 

befallen  the  humble  hero  whom  Sunderland  has  the 

distinguished    honour    of    numbering    among   her 

46      LIFE    OF     HARRY    WATTS 

citizens Whilst    his    native     modesty 

prevented  him  from  blazoning  his  deeds  forth  to  the 
world,  he  nevertheless  dearly  valued  the  proofs  with 
which  he  had  been  furnished  that  his  noble  services 
in  the  cause  of  humanity  were  not  unesteemed  by 
his  countrymen,  but  more  particularly  by  his  fellow- 
townsmen We   consider    it   is  the 

plain  duty  of  the  town  at  the  very  least  to  replace 
by  substitutes  the  trophies  so  stolen.  The  villain's 
conduct  casts  a  slur  upon  the  people  of  Sunderland 
which  they  can  best  remove  by  quickly  showing  in 
the  manner  which  may  be  deemed  the  most  striking 
the  deep  indignation  which  they  unquestionably  feel 
over  the  humiliating  incident.  The  town,  many 
think,  would  only  be  acting  becomingly  if  it  were 
to  seize  the  opportunity  to  mark  more  pronouncedly 
the  esteem  in  which  it  holds  such  deeds  as  those 
with  whose  glowing  records  Watts  has  so  richly 
embellished  his  humble  name  and  station.  The 
trophies  may  be  replaced,  but  when  this  has  been 
done,  the  town  will  scarcely  have  discharged  the 
debt  of  gratitude  under  which  it  lies  to  Mr.  Watts. 
When,  as  a  nation,  we  pay  the  utmost  homage  to 
men  who  have  distinguished  themselves  in  dealing 
out  death  and  destruction  among  our  enemies, 
surely  we  may  spare  a  modicum  of  generous 
recognition  for  the  man  in  our  midst  who  has  won 
for  himself  a  far  more  honourable  fame  by  saving 
from  death,  often  at  the  imminent  peril  of  his  own 
life,  no  fewer  than  thirty-three  of  our  own  brothers 


and  sisters.  In  paying  this  debt  of  respect  and 
gratitude,  a  profitable  lesson,  too,  may  be  conveyed 
to  the  younger  generation,  and  this  might  prove 
not  the  least  favourable  feature  of  the  movement. 
We  would  suggest  that,  beyond  replacing  the 
medals  stolen,  the  committee  which  has  been  given 
this  matter  in  charge  should  aim  to  establish  a 
Watts  Swimming  Trophy,  to  be  annually  contested 
for  by  the  youths  residing  on  the  banks  of  the  Wear. 
If  this  could  be  accomplished  by  means  of  a  penny 
subscription,  which  would  give  the  people  generally 
a  share  in  the  movement,  it  would  prove  all  the  more 
valuable  and  striking.  Such  a  trophy  would  create 
a  healthy  emulation  amongst  all  classes,  and  the 
public  would  have  the  satisfaction  of  knowing  that 
while  they  had  been  recognising  genuine  daring 
and  nobleness,  they  had  also  been  stimulating  the 
rising  manhood  of  the  port  to  the  acquirement  of  a 
highly  valuable  and  indispensable  art,  the  necessity 
for  a  knowledge  of  which  could  not  be  brought 
home  more  impressively  than  by  the  terrible  loss  of 
life  off  Woolwich."* 

The  town  lost  no  time  in  replacing  the  medals. 
A  committee  was  formed  and  subscriptions  came 
in   quickly.      But   before  this  committee   could 

*  This  reference  is  to  the  sinking-  of  the  passenger  steamer, 
"Princess  Alice,"  which,  while  crowded  with  passengers,  was 
run  into  and  sunk  by  the  collier  steamer  "  Bywell  Castle,"  in 
the  River  Thames,  on  Tuesday,  September  3rd,  1878,  and  as  the 
result  of  which  some  600  persons  lost  their  lives. 

148       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

act,  the  United  Temperance  Crusaders,  on  their 
own  initiative,  obtained  a  new  gold  medal  to  re- 
place the  one  they  had  presented  to  Mr.  Watts 
in  1875;  and  on  September  4th,  1878,  just  a 
month  after  the  theft,  this  medal  was  presented 
to  him  at  a  crowded  public  meeting,  held  in 
Coulson's  Mission  Hall,  Calver  Street. 

11  Mr.  R.  H.  Watson,  in  making  the  presentation, 
said  that  when  three  years  before  the  Temperance 
Crusaders  presented  Mr.  Watts  with  a  gold  medal, 
they  considered  that  they  were  only  conferring 
upon  him  an  honour  to  which  he  was  richly  en- 
titled. When  Mr.  Watts  came  to  his  sad  loss, 
which  was  regarded  as  a  local  calamity,  they,  after  a 
little  talk  in  private,  determined  to  present  him  with 
a  second  gold  medal.  They  did  not  make  their 
purpose  public,  though  if  he  had  taken  all  the  sub- 
scriptions offered  him  after  the  medal  had  been 
exhibited,  he  would  now  have  had  funds  in  hand 
sufficient  to  have  presented  Mr.  Watts  with  more 
than  twenty  medals.  The  presence  of  so  many 
strangers  at  the  meeting  was  in  itself  a  proof  of  the 
esteem  in  which  Harry  Watts  was  held  generally. 
He  had  great  pleasure  in  asking  Mr.  Watts  to 
receive  the  medal  as  a  renewed  token  of  their 
kindly  feelings  towards  him,  and,  as  the  inscription 
on  it  stated,  as  a  mark  of  their  high  sense  of  his 
manly  courage  in  rescuing  thirty-three  persons 
from  drowning. 


"  Mr.  Watson  then  pinned  the  gold  medal  on  Mr. 
Watts's  breast  amid  loud  applause,  and  he  added 
that  if  it  should  be  Mr.  Watts's  sad  misfortune  to 
lose  this  medal,  the  Temperance  Crusaders  would 
feel  happy  and  proud  to  present  him  with  a  third 

11  Mr.  Watts  in  thanking  the  donors  for  their 
great  kindness  remarked  that  if  it  should  be  his 
good  fortune  to  receive  either  the  original  medals 
or  substitutes,  he  gave  them  his  word  that  if  any 
person  wanted  to  see  the  medals  they  would  have 
to  see  the  owner  also  ;  and  if  any  man  attempted  to 
take  them  from  his  breast,  he  would  fight  for  them 
as  hard  as  his  fellow  townsman,  Jack  Crawford, 
fought  for  the  flag  of  old  England  at  Camperdown. 
When  he  heard  of  his  loss  he  was  very  much  cast 
down,  and  he  had  felt  the  effect  of  it  up  to  the 
present  time.  Therefore  he  was  all  the  more 
thankful  for  what  the  Crusaders  had  done  for  him. 

"Mr.  Watson  then  presented  another  trophy  to 
Mr.  Watts,  a  silver  star  medal,  given  by  Mr. 
Rennison,  silversmith,  of  Bridge  Street,  and  in 
doing  so  said  that  Mr.  Watts  was  entitled  to  all  the 
honours  which  Sunderland  could  confer  upon  him, 
and  he  should  not  be  surprised  if  within  a  couple 
of  weeks  Mr.  Watts  bore  on  his  breast  far  more 
medals  than  the  rascally  thief  stole.     (Applause.) 

"In  again  thanking  them  Mr.  Watts  said  that 
he  cast  no   blame  for  his  loss  on  the  brethren  and 

i5o       LIFE    OF   HARRY  WATTS 

sisters  of  the  Lay  Church,  whose  grief  caused  him 
far  more  pain  than  the  actual  loss  of  the  medals." 

Other  speakers  followed,  eulogising  Mr. 
Watts,  but  sufficient  has  been  given  to  show 
the  high  esteem  in  which  the  hero  was  held  by 
the  townspeople  generally. 

Some  time  after  the  theft  of  the  medals  a 
policeman  met  a  man  in  the  lower  part  of  the 
town  carrying  a  sailor's  bag  over  his  shoulder. 
It  is  the  nature  of  a  policeman  to  be  suspicious, 
and  this  policeman  being  no  exception  to  that 
rule,  stopped  the  man  and  asked  him  what  he 
had  in  the  bag.  He  said  he  was  a  sailor  just 
returned  from  sea,  and  the  bag  contained  his 
dirty  clothes.  The  unbelieving  policeman 
thought  he  would  like  to  look  at  the  things, 
and  insisted  upon  doing  so.  The  result  justified 
his  suspicions,  for  the  bag  was  full  of  mis- 
cellaneous articles  which  the  fellow  had  stolen 
from  a  chemist's  shop  into  which  he  had  broken. 

The  man  was  marched  off  to  the  police 
station  and  surprising  revelations  followed.  He 
proved  to  be  a  John  Bailey,  of  6  Grey  Street, 
Southwick,  an  engine  fitter  by  trade,  who  had 
been  regularly  working  at  his  trade  during  the 


day  time,  but  had  for  a  long  time  carried  on  a 
systematic  course  of  burglary  at  nights.  When 
his  house  was  visited  it  was  found  to  contain 
articles  stolen  from  various  parts  of  Sunderland 
as  well  as  from  Southwick  and  Seaham  Har- 
bour. This  was  the  man,  it  was  discovered, 
who  had  broken  into  the  Lay  Church  in  James 
Williams  Street  and  stolen  the  medals  belonging 
to  Mr.  Watts.  The  detective,  on  questioning 
the  daughter  of  the  prisoner,  a  child  eight  years 
old,  respecting  the  medals,  was  told  that  her 
father  had  given  her  some  medals  to  play  with, 
but  she  had  thrown  them  into  the  fire  as  she 
thought  them  of  no  use.  A  vigorous  search 
was  made  but  only  one  of  the  medals  was  found, 
the  one  presented  to  Henry  by  the  sailors  of 
Sunderland,  and  it  was  found  greatly  damaged 
in  the  ashpit  of  the  house,  having  evidently 
been  through  the  fire. 

A  search  of  the  man's  house  brought  to  light 
a  most  amazing  collection  of  stolen  articles  ;  a 
model  of  a  ship,  two  model  steam  engines,  child- 
ren's frocks  and  other  things  stolen  from  the 
Christian  Lay  Church  at  the  same  time  as  the 
medals,   cutlery,  hardware,  compasses,   a  fancy 

i52       LIFE    OF  HARRY  WATTS 

time-piece,  stockings,  tablecloths,  hairseating 
and  covering  cut  from  one  of  the  Seaham  Har- 
bour railway  carriages,  and  many  other  things  ; 
indeed  the  man  seems  to  have  been  a  klepto- 
maniac, and  to  have  stolen  for  the  mere  pleasure 
of  stealing.  But  though  the  police  found  a  large 
collection  of  stolen  property  of  every  kind,  of 
the  medals  there  was  no  trace  beyond  the  dam- 
aged one  already  mentioned. 

But  Henry  was  not  to  be  very  long  without 
trophies.  There  were  many  difficulties  in  the 
way  of  procuring  duplicates  of  some  of  them, 
but  all  these  difficulties  melted  away  before  the 
enthusiasm  of  those  who  had  determined  that 
the  medals  should  be  replaced  ;  and  on  Decem- 
ber 3rd,  1878,  a  meeting  was  called  for  the 
purpose  of  presenting  Henry  with  the  duplicate 
medals.  The  meeting  was  very  appropriately 
held  in  the  Christian  Lay  Church,  James 
Williams  Street,  from  which  place  the  originals 
had  been  stolen,  and  the  Mayor  (Mr.  Samuel 
S.  Robson),  presided  over  a  crowded  attendance, 
a  large  number  of  seamen  being  included  in  the 
audience.  The  Mayor's  remarks  are  well  worthy 
of  reproduction,  as  showing  where   Mr.  Watts 


stood  thirty-two  years  ago  in  the  estimation  of 
his  fellow  townsmen.  The  following  is  taken 
from  the  report  of  the  meeting  published  in 
the  Sunderland  Daily  Echo,  December  4th, 

"The  chairman  referred  to  the  meeting  as  the 
most  interesting-  one  he  had  been  called  upon  to 
attend  since  his  election  to  the  Mayoralty.  The 
bravery  possessed  by  Mr.  Watts  was  of  the  highest 
order  of  bravery.  He  did  not  '  seek  the  bubble 
reputation  at  the  cannon's  mouth,'  he  was  truly 
brave,  and  had  rescued  many  a  man  from  a  watery 
grave.  He  had  done  brave  deeds  when  there  had 
been  no  applauding  multitudes  to  see  him,  the  only 
reward  he  got  being  a  good  conscience.  Mr.  Watts 
was  a  possessor  of  that  moral  courage  so  much  to 
be  desired  by  us  all.  His  conduct  in  the  past  had 
fortunately  not  been  entirely  unrewarded,  for  he  had 
had  medals  from  many  societies,  among  others 
from  the  Royal  Humane  Society,  who  never  pre- 
sented medals  unless  they  were  well  deserved. 
The  gifts  which  had  at  various  times  been  bestowed 
upon  Mr.  Watts  were  : — A  silver  medal  from  the 
sailors  of  Sunderland  ;  a  large  gold  medal  from  the 
Diamond  Swimming  Club  ;  a  small  gold  medal 
from  Mr.  Richardson,  of  Monkwearmouth  ;  bronze 
medal  from  the  Royal  Humane  Society;  gold  medal 
from  the  United  Temperance  Crusaders  ;    a  bronze 

154       LIFE   OF    HARRY  WATTS 

medal  from  the  Board  of  Trade — a  beautiful  piece 
by  Wyon — a  second  gold  medal  from  the  United 
Temperance  Crusaders  ;  and  a  silver  star  medal 
from  Mr.  Rennison  of  Bridge  Street.  The  first 
five  medals  mentioned  were  the  ones  stolen,  and, 
as  most  of  the  audience  knew,  duplicates  of  them 
were  to  be  returned  to  Mr.  Watts  that  evening. 
When  he  (the  speaker)  first  heard  of  the  petty  theft 
which  had  been  committed,  it  struck  him  as  the 
meanest  robbery  he  had  heard  of.  It  was  a  most 
shabby  theft,  for  when  a  man  got  a  great  monetary 
advantage  by  theft  he  might  consider  it  some  in- 
ducement, but  the  chief  value  of  the  medals  being 
in  the  honour  attached  to  them,  he  could  not  con- 
ceive why  the  robbery  had  been  committed.  Per- 
haps, however,  after  all,  the  stealing  of  the  medals 
had  done  Mr.  Watts  a  good  turn,  for  they  now  had 
the  opportunity  of  showing  him  what  a  host  of 
friends  he  had  in  the  town,  and  the  occurrence  had 
been  the  means  of,  if  possible,  bringing  his  name 
into  greater  repute  than  ever.  (Applause.)  Mr. 
Watts's  name  was  certainly  now  a  household  word 
throughout  Sunderland,  and  the  pleasing  fact  of 
this  church  being  so  well  filled  with  sympathising 
friends  must  be  deeply  gratifying  to  him. 

"The  Mayor  then,  amidst  a  scene  of  immense 
enthusiasm,  pinned  the  medals  upon  Mr.  Watts's 
breast,  and  at  the  same  time  presented  him  with  the 
following  illuminated  and  framed  address  : — 


TO    MR.     HENRY    WATTS. 

Numerous  friends  in  your  native  town  having 
shown  their  approval  of  your  many  successful 
efforts  to  save  your  fellow  men  from  drowning, 
they  desire  once  more  to  show  the  high  estimation 
in  which  you  are  held  by  replacing  the  gold  and 
other  medals  stolen  from  the  James  Williams  Street 
Chapel  Bazaar  on  the  6th  of  August,  1878. 

Further,  they  hope  your  life  will  be  spared,  and 
that  you  will  long  wear  the  new  medals  this  day 
presented  by  the  Mayor  of  the  Borough. 

Sam.   S.    Robson,   Mayor. 
Sunderland,  3rd  Dec,    1878. 

"Mr.  Watts  in  replying  expressed  his  deep 
gratitude  for  their  kindness  in  restoring  his  lost 
medals,  and  said  he  thought  it  was  his  duty  to  tell 
the  audience  that  he  had  had  an  interview  with  the 
man  who  had  stolen  them.  When  he  asked  the 
prisoner  whether  he  had  taken  all  the  five  medals, 
he  said  'Yes,  I  took  them  all.  The  first  night  I 
got  them  I  put  the  bronze  medals  into  the  fire,  and 
then  I  took  the  gold  medal  and  broke  it  into  pieces, 
and  put  the  other  three  into  a  drawer  in  my  house.' 
Then  the  prisoner  Bailey  said  to  me  that  he  wished 
he  was  drowned,  and  I  said,  '  Mister,  if  ye  were 
droonin'  aw'd  pull  ye  oot  bi  th'  neck  !'  (Loud 
applause.)  After  renewed  thanks  to  the  meeting 
Mr.  Watts  resumed  his  seat  amid  another  outburst 
of  cheering." 

156      LIFE    OF     HARRY    WATTS 

Mr.  James  G.  Campbell,  printer,  of  Press 
Lane,  a  staunch  friend  of  Mr.  Watts  and  the 
first  to  call  public  attention  to  his  remarkable 
record,  was  at  the  meeting,  and  on  being  called 
upon  by  the  Mayor  proposed  the  following 
resolution  : — 

"That  this  public  meeting  assembled  respect- 
fully requests  the  Mayor  to  forward  a  memorial 
to  Her  Majesty,  asking  that  the  Albert  Medal  be 
presented  to  Mr.  Henry  Watts,  in  recognition  of 
his  successful  efforts  in  saving  so  many  lives 
from  drowning." 

This  resolution  was  carried  with  acclama- 
tion, and  the  Mayor  undertook  to  forward  the 
memorial  to  the  proper  quarters. 

What  happened  to  that  memorial  ?  Did  it 
ultimately  arrive  at  the  Circumlocution  Office 
and  disturb  the  calm  serenity  of  some  of  the 
Tite  Barnacle  Tribe,  to  be  pigeon-holed  by  them 
as  another  piece  of  impertinence  on  the  part  of 
the  public  ?  There  is  no  record  of  what  became 
of  it  after  it  had  left  the  hands  of  the  Mayor, 
but  the  following  letter,  dated  some  eighteen 
months  after  the  resolution  was  passed,  shows 
that  it  was  sent  forward  : — 


13,  Claremont  Terrace, 

July  19th,  1880. 

Dear  Sir, — I  got  the  memorial  from  Mr.  Tone 
this  morning-,  and  have  sent  it  to  Mr.  Gourley, 
M.P.,  and  a  copy  to  Sir  Henry  Havelock-Allan, 
M.P.,  and  hope  that  they  may  succeed  in  getting 
you  the  Albert  medal.  I  am  sure  you  deserve  it. 
With  kind  regards, 

I  am,  yours  truly, 

S.  S.  Robson. 
Mr.  Henry  Watts. 

Four  months  after  receiving  the  above  letter 
Mr.  Watts  received  one  from  Sir  Henry 
Havelock-Allan,  but,  as  will  be  seen,  no  men- 
tion is  made  in  it  of  the  Albert  medal  or  of  the 

70,  Chester  Square,  S.W., 

4th   Nov.,    1880. 

Dear  Mr.  Watts, — I  have  been  away  in  Darling- 
ton and  Yorkshire  on  business  for  some  days,  or 
would  have  acknowledged  the  receipt  of  your 
photograph  earlier. 

I  thank  you  very  much  for  sending  it  to  me,  and 
it  gives  me  gratification  to  have  the  likeness,  and 
also,  I  hope,  the  friendship  of  so  brave  and  dis- 
tinguished   a    man,    and    of   one    who    has    shown 

158       LIFE    OF    HARRY  WATTS 

himself   so    truly   a  benefactor    of   his  fellow-men. 

Believe  me, 

Yours  very  truly, 

H.  M.  Havelock- Allan. 
Mr.  Henry  Watts,  Sunderland. 

The  incident  of  the  stolen  medals  may  be 
finished  by  stating  that  the  man  Bailey  was 
sent  to  prison  for  twelvemonths  for  some  of  his 
thefts,  and  on  his  release  Mr.  Watts  was 
urged  to  prosecute  him  for  the  theft  of  the 
medals,  but  refused  to  do  so. 



..     .     /  have  bedimrrid 
The  noontide  sun,  called  forth  the  ??iutinous  winds, 
And  Hwixt  the  green  sea  and  the  azured  vault 
Set  raging  war. — The  Tempest.     Act  5,  Sc.  I. 

A  11  THEN  the  duplicate  medals  were  pre- 
V  V  sented  to  Mr.  Watts  he  was  fifty-two 
years  old.  He  was  then — at  a  time  of  life  when 
most  men  begin  to  think  of  themselves  as  grow- 
ing old — strong  and  vigorous,  and  with  many 
years  of  useful  service  before  him.  Of  his  ser- 
vices on  behalf  of  humanity  there  is  still  much 
to  record  ;  and  he  was  honoured,  too,  with  other 
marks  of  appreciation,  but  these  will  be  men- 
tioned in  due  time.  For  the  present,  as  we  have 
seen  that  his  noble  and  self-sacrificing  work  as 
a  life-saver  has  been  fully  recognised,  we  may 
leave  that  phase  of  his  career  for  a  while  and 
take  up  the  story  of  his  work-a-day  life  once 

Mr.  Watts  was  one  of  the  divers  employed 
in  trying  to  recover  the  bodies  of  the  victims 

160       LIFE    OF    HARRY  WATTS 

of  the  Tay  Bridge  disaster,  and  in  order  that 
the  reader  may  understand  something  of  the 
work  that  was  done  there,  it  will  be  necessary 
to  give  a  short  account  of  that  terrible  accident. 
The  Tay  Bridge,  which  crossed  the  river  at 
Dundee,  took  six  years  to  build,  and  was  opened 
for  traffic  on  May  31st,  1878.  Its  total  length 
was  3,450  yards,  with  85  spans,  and  the  cost  of 
the  structure  was  ,£350,000.  Eighty-five  piers 
supported  a  number  of  spans  of  varying  length. 
The  last  span  at  either  end  of  the  bridge  was 
short,  but  in  the  centre,  where  the  navigable 
channel  of  the  river  ran,  there  were  13  spans 
each  245  feet  long,  with  the  piers  so  high  that 
at  high  water  there  was  a  clear  water  way  of  85 
feet,  amply  sufficient  for  the  class  of  vessels  ply- 
ing from  Dundee  to  places  up  the  Tay.  The 
bridge  was  a  single  road  one,  that  is,  it  was  only 
of  sufficient  width  for  a  single  line  of  rails  ;  it 
was  ten  feet  higher  than  the  present  bridge*. 

*  It  is  interesting  to  note  that  the  locomotive  engine  which  fell 
with  the  bridge  was  recovered  from  the  river,  and  I  am  officially 
informed  that  it  is  still  working.  The  Secretary  of  the  North 
British  Railway  Co.,  in  a  letter  dated  18th  January,  191 1,  says  : — 
"The  engine  in  question  is  No.  224  and  is  employed  on  the  Pas- 
senger service  between  Dunfermline  and  Glasgow  and  Thornton. 
It  is  a  bogie  engine  with  17m.  by  24m.  cylinders,  4  coupled  wheels 
6ft.  6in.  diameter,  and  bogie  wheels  3ft.  7m.  diameter.  The  en- 
gine was  re-boilered  in  1887  and  has  since  been  in  continuous 


On  Sunday,  December  28th,  1879,  a  gale  of 
unusual  violence  swept  across  Dundee,  and  at  its 
height,  at  7. 10  p.m.,  the  train  from  Edinburgh, 
due  at  Dundee  at  7.15,  was  crossing  the  bridge 
when  the  whole  of  the  centre  portion  of  the 
structure  collapsed  and  fell  into  the  river,  carry- 
ing the  train  and  about  ninety  passengers  with 
it.  Not  a  single  soul  of  those  on  board  the 
train  escaped  alive.  As  the  river  at  that  part 
is  about  two  miles  wide,  the  noise  of  the  falling 
bridge  and  train  could  not  have  been  heard  at 
either  side  even  if  it  had  been  a  still  night,  in- 
stead of  a  most  tempestuous  one  ;  and  so  for 
a  short  time  nothing  was  done  or  attempted, 
because  nothing  was  known  of  the  dreadful 

But  presently,  the  train  not  arriving  after 
having  been  signalled  as  on  the  bridge,  the  sta- 
tion master  at  Dundee  went  to  the  signal  box 
and  discovered  that  the  wires  were  broken  and 
it  was  impossible  to  get  any  signals  through. 
Mr.  Roberts,  the  superintendent  of  the  locomo- 
tive department,  then  went  along  the  bridge  at 
great  risk,  for  the  force  of  the  wind  was  such  as 
to  almost  lift  him  off  his  feet  at  times.      Urged 


162       LIFE    OF   HARRY  WATTS 

by  anxiety,  however,  he  persevered,  and  crawl- 
ed along  on  his  hands  and  knees  to  the  point 
where  the  high  girders  began,  and  there  his  pro- 
gress was  arrested.  To  his  horror  he  discovered 
that  the  whole  of  the  thirteen  central  girders, 
each  245  feet  long  and  250  tons  in  weight,  were 
gone,  and  nothing  remained  but  the  iron  pillars 
which  had  supported  them. 

At  the  moment  the  train  fell  certain  people 
on  shore  had  seen  two  intensely  brilliant  sheets 
of  flame  and  showers  of  sparks  at  the  centre  of 
the  bridge  where  the  high  girders  ran,  evidently 
resulting  from  the  friction  of  the  ponderous 
mass  of  iron  as  it  ground  against  itself  and 
crashed  into  the  river  below  from  a  height  of 
about   100  feet. 

A  steamer  was  sent  out  to  inspect  and  search, 
and  she  launched  her  lifeboat  and  searched  for 
a  considerable  time,  but  not  a  soul  had  escaped. 

Almost  the  first  thing  done  by  the  authorities 
after  realizing  the  terrible  nature  of  the  calamity 
was  to  secure  divers  with  a  view  to  recovering 
the  bodies,  and  the  first  attempt  was  made  on 
the  Wednesday  following  the  accident,  but  was 


Mr.  C.  H.  Dodds,  the  General  Manager  of 
the  River  Wear  Commissioners,  was  among  the 
first  in  Sunderland  to  hear  of  the  disaster,  and 
it  gave  him  a  great  shock.  He  at  once  went  to 
see  Sir  James  Laing,  Chairman  of  the  Com- 
missioners, and  suggested  to  him  that  as  skilful 
divers  would  be  wanted,  if  Henry  Watts  could 
be  induced  to  help,  it  would  be  a  very  good 
thing  for  the  authorities  at  Dundee.  Sir  James 
at  once  agreed,  and  Mr.  Dodds  hurried  down 
to  see  Henry. 

"As  soon  as  I  mentioned  the  matter  to 
him,"  says  Mr.  Dodds,  "he  promptly  agreed  to 
go,  immediately  offering  his  services  free." 

"The  authorities  at  Tay  Bridge,"  says  a 
newspaper  report  of  the  time,  "  telegraphed 
that  they  would  be  most  happy  to  accept  the 
services  of  Mr.  Watts,  and  he  took  his  de- 
parture, carrying  diving  apparatus  with  him. 
He  is  also  accompanied  by  his  two  assistants, 
one  of  whom  is  his  son." 

Another  report  states  that  "  Mr.  Henry 
Watts,  the  well-known  Sunderland  diver,  left 
that  town  by  the  1 1.0  p.m.  train  on  New  Year's 
Day  [1880],  for  the  scene  of  the  Tay  Bridge 

1 64      LIFE    OF    HARRY   WATTS 

disaster.  Harry  Watts,  as  he  is  more  familiarly 
called,  offered  his  services  gratuitously  imme- 
diately it  became  known  that  the  disaster  had 
occurred,  provided  he  could  obtain  permission 
from  his  employers." 

This  permission,  as  we  have  seen,  was 
readily  granted,  and  Harry  set  out  with  his 

Asked  what  was  the  first  thing  he  did  when 
he  got  there,  he  said  that  as  soon  as  he  arrived 
at  Dundee  he  bought  himself  a  splendid  knife, 
the  best  he  could  buy,  a  most  fortunate  purchase 
as  it  proved.  The  water  was  sometimes  running 
like  a  mill  race,  and  was  so  full  of  mud  and  scour 
that  it  was  impossible  to  see  anything  when  a 
few  feet  below  the  surface,  so  that  the  divers 
had  to  do  what  they  did  entirely  by  the  sense  of 
touch.  Pushing  his  way  in  the  liquid  darkness 
Henry  presently  stumbled  upon  the  telegraph 
wires  which  had  come  down  with  the  bridge, 
and  in  a  moment  he  was  entangled  in  them  and 
began  to  wonder  how  he  was  to  get  clear.  It  is 
necessary  that  a  person  should  understand  some- 
thing of  the  diver's  business  to  appreciate  what 
it  means  to  be   entangled  when   under  water, 


even  in  clear  water  where  there  is  some  little 
light.  But  in  this  case  not  only  was  there  com- 
plete darkness,  but  a  very  strong  tide  was 
running,  and  all  around  him  were  the  monster 
remnants  of  the  wrecked  train  and  bridge,  any 
one  piece  of  which  might  topple  over  on  to 
him  and  crush  him  to  death. 

A  long  and  varied  experience  enabled  him 
to  keep  a  clear  head  under  these  trying  cir- 
cumstances, and  presently  bethinking  himself  of 
the  new  knife  he  had  bought,  he  whipped  it  out 
and  managed  to  cut  through  a  few  of  the  wires — 
sufficient  to  allow  him  to  get  free,  though  the 
little  finger  of  his  left  hand  was  broken  as  a 
result  of  the  struggle. 

He  was  away  a  week  altogether,  and  was 
diving  for  three  days.  Diving  operations  were 
suspended  on  Monday,  January  5th,  1880;  on 
the  following  day  all  the  divers  attended  the 
inquiry  to  give  evidence,  and  on  Wednesday, 
January  7th,  they  left  for  their  homes. 

Though  somewhat  uncertain  as  to  dates 
Henry's  memory  is  excellent  as  regards  general 
facts,  and  this  is  the  story  of  his  share  in  the 
work  as  told  by  himself : — 

1 66      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

"When  Mr.  Dodds  came  and  asked  me  to 
go,  why,  of  course,  I  agreed  at  once,  and  he 
said,  '  Now,  Harry,  you  must  be  sure  and  take 
every  care  of  yourself ;  and  what  men  you  take 
with  you  make  sure  that  they  are  careful  and 

"  So  I  took  my  son  Tom  and  a  cousin. 
We  got  there  all  right,  and  the  first  thing  I  did 
was  to  buy  a  knife,  a  real  good  'un,  the  best  I 
could  get,  and  a  good  job  I  did  too.  Divers 
were  there  from  the  Royal  Navy  working  with 
us,  and  there  were  divers  from  all  parts.  There 
was  a  heavy  swell  on,  and  sometimes  the  tide 
was  very  strong,  and  when  it  came,  it  came  with 
a  rush.  The  first  day  I  was  down  I  got 
entangled  with  the  Shields  diver,  but  I  didn't 
know  who  it  was,  for  it  was  so  dark  you  couldn't 
see  an  inch  in  front  of  you. 

"  I  sent  up  a  few  things  and  then  I  got  into 
a  third  class  carriage  to  look  for  some  of  the 
bodies,  and  I  went  through  it  from  end  to  end 
on  my  hands  and  knees,  but  it  was  empty.  In 
doing  this  a  piece  of  iron  on  the  carriage  tore 
open  the  sleeve  of  my  dress,  which  got  half  full 
of  water  before  I  could  get  up  to  put  it  right. 



"  The  second  day  we  tried  further  down  to 
see  if  we  could  get  any  of  the  bodies,  but  neither 
then  nor  afterwards  did  we  find  any.  Those 
that  were  recovered  were  washed  ashore  or 
found  with  drags.  But  we  kept  on  going  down, 
though  it  was  dreadfully  heavy  work,  and  dis- 
appointing too,  owing  to  the  state  of  the  river 
and  the  difficulties  of  working  amongst  the  huge 
heaps  of  stuff  that  lay  at  the  bottom  of  the 
river.  One  day  I  came  upon  the  engine  of  the 
train,  but  I  dare  not  go  in  to  search  it,  there 
were  so  many  things  to  get  entangled  with." 

After  they  had  given  evidence  at  the  Board 
of  Trade  enquiry,  Captain  Brine,  of  H.M.S. 
"  Lord  Warden,"  and  Captain  Robertson,  the 
Harbour  Master,  thanked  them  publicly  for  the 
work  they  had  done. 

Then  Henry  finished  with  a  characteristic 
little  incident. 

"  Efterwards  yen  o'  th'  divers  cum  ti  me  an' 
he  says,  '  Cum  an'  ha'  yer  mornin'  drappie.' " 

"  What  de  ye  mean?"  ses  I. 

"A  drap  o' whisky,"  says  he,  "ti  keep  the 
caad  oot." 

168     LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

"  Whisky,"  says  I.  "  My  man,  aw'll  tell  tha 
what  it  is,  aw'm  twice  as  aad  as  ony  on  ye  here, 
aw  can  wark  as  weel  as  ony  on  ye,  an'  if  ye 
continee    yer    whisky    drinkin'    aw'll    still    be 

warkin'  when  ye're  dune  for .      Him  an'  his 

whisky !"  he  concluded  with  contempt. 

The  following  is  taken  from  the  Sunderland 
Weekly  Times  of  January  9th,  1880: — 

"Return  of  Mr.  Henry  Watts. — Diving  op- 
erations were  suspended  on  Monday  afternoon  [Jan. 
5th,  1880],  and  yesterday  the  divers  left  for  their 
several  homes,  Mr.  Watts,  of  Sunderland,  and  Mr. 
Barclay,  of  Shields,  journeyed  south  together  and 
arrived  at  home  early  this  evening.  Although  our 
friend  Watts  was  only  engaged  three  days  in  actual 
diving  operations,  he  seems  to  have  gained  the  good 
opinions  of  all  who  witnessed  the  manner  in  which 
he  went  about  his  duties.  Referring  to  Monday's 
work  we  find  the  following  flattering  remarks  in  the 
Edinburgh  Evening  News: — 'Watts,  who  is  evi- 
dently the  most  experienced  diver  of  the  lot,  was 
complimented  by  Captain  Brine,  of  the  "Lord  War- 
den," on  the  way  he  did  his  work.  Watts  was  then 
on  the  ladder  preparing  for  another  descent,  his  son 
standing  ready  to  screw  on  the  mouthpiece,  and 
replied  'That's  all  right.  Thank  ye  kindly,  sir.' 
Then  with  a  '  Gan  on,  hinny,'  to  the  man  at  the  air 
pump,  and  *  Screw  up  !'  to  his  son,  he  disappeared 


in  an  instant.  He  went  in  the  direction  of  the 
engine,  but  the  tide  had  now  turned  and  was  set- 
ting towards  the  girders,  and  he  was  obliged  to 
give  up.  When  his  assistants  had  removed  his 
ponderous  dress  it  was  found  to  be  half  filled  with 
water.  Watts  has  had  an  eventful  career,  and  has 
saved  thirty-three  persons  from  drowning.' 

4 'We  paid  a  visit  to  our  friend  last  night,  and 
found  him  in  capital  health,  but  rather  disappoint- 
ed at  having  been  obliged  to  discontinue  the  search 
for  bodies,  which  we  know  he  was  quite  willing  to 
carry  on  without  fee  or  reward,  excepting  the  plea- 
sure of  handing  the  '  poor  things  over  to  their 
friends.'  Diving  operations,  he  says,  were  never 
carried  on  under  greater  difficulties.  Usually  the 
men  are  able  to  see  some  distance  from  the  glass  of 
the  helmet,  but  owing  to  the  muddy  condition  of 
the  estuary,  ■  I  could  not  see  a  finger  before  me, 
and  had  to  grope  about  in  total  darkness,'  as  he  ex- 
pressed it.  .  .  We  think  the  people  of  Sunder- 
land may  well  feel  satisfied  at  the  assistance  given 
by  their  townsman  in  the  hope  of  recovering  the 
bodies  of  the  unfortunate  victims,  and  to  solve  the 
mystery  which  at  present  surrounds  the  cause  of 
the  accident." 
After  all  was  over,  the  money  in  payment  for 
his  services  was  sent  on  to  the  Commissioners, 
but  Henry  refused  to  take  it,  asserting  that  to 
do  so  after  offering  his  services  free  would  be  to 

i;o      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

cast  a  slur  upon  his  townsmen.  Mr.  Dodds,  the 
Commissioners'  general  manager,  tried  to  per- 
suade him  to  take  it,  pointing  out  that  as  the 
authorities  at  Dundee  had  sent  the  money  there 
could  not  be  anything  wrong  in  accepting  it,  but 
Henry  was  firm  and  refused  to  take  it.  He 
says  that  it  was  finally  agreed  to  send  it  to  a 
charity,  but  which  charity  received  it  there  is  no 
record  to  show.  The  following  letter,  however, 
shows  his  position  in  the  matter : — 

From  the  Sunderland  Weekly  Times,  16th 
January,  1880  : — 

11  Heroic  Conduct  of  the  Sunderland  Diver. 
— Mr.  Dodds,  the  general  manager  of  the  River 
Wear  Commissioners,  writing  to  Captain  Robert- 
son, Harbour  Master,  at  Dundee,  says  : — '  The 
Commissioners  will  make  no  charge  whatever  for 
the  use  of  the  diving  gear,  and  Watts  positively  de- 
clines to  accept  anything  for  his  diving  services  at 
Dundee.  He  left  home  simply  as  a  volunteer,  and 
hoped  that  he  might  be  able  to  recover  some  of  the 
bodies  of  the  unfortunate  victims,  and  he  appears 
much  concerned  at  not  having  been  successful, 
although  the  reason  given  in  your  letter  certainly 
ought  to  satisfy  him.  He  is  a  sterling  good  fellow, 
and  at  all  times  most  anxious  to  do  good.  He 
speaks  very  highly  of  the  great  kindness  he  has  re- 


ceived  from  yourself  and  from  all  those  with  whom 
he  came  in  contact  during  his  stay.'  " 

In  view  of  the  above  statement  the  following 
letter  is  also  of  interest : — 

Queen's  Hotel,  Dundee, 

Jan.  14th,  1880. 
Dear  Sir, 

Thanks  for  the  photograph,  which  has  been  sent 
to  me  here,  hence  the  delay  in  acknowledging  it. 
I  shall  preserve  it  as  a  memento  of  a  sad  affair  in 
which  the  original  of  it  did  his  duty  nobly  without 
thought  of  recompense. 

Yours  very  truly, 

D.  Wilson. 
Mr.  H.  Watts,  Sunderland. 


A    NOVEL    USE    FOR    A    DIVER. 

Death  hath  ten  thousand  several  doors 

For  men  to  take  their  exit. — JohnWebster. 

THE  supreme  court  of  appeal  for  all  authors, 
whether  great  or  small,  is  that  mystic  but 
multitudinous  personage  always  referred  to  as 
"the  gentle  reader."  Some  experience  of  this 
ubiquitous  judge  has  taught  me  two  things:  first, 
that  "the  gentle  reader"  must  be  kept  interest- 
ed and  entertained,  or  his  verdict,  from  which 
there  is  no  appeal,  will  be  against  the  book  ;  and 
second,  that  he  will  not  tolerate  an  anti-climax. 
The  knowledge  of  these  two  rules  is  the  all-suf- 
ficient excuse  for  paying  less  attention  to  the 
order  in  which  the  events  now  to  be  related  oc- 
curred than  to  the  importance  of  them.  Merely 
to  recite,  one  after  the  other,  the  rescues 
effected  by  Mr.  Watts,  would  make  but 
monotonous  reading,  in  spite  of  the  thrilling 
nature  of  some  of  them;   and  monotony   "the 

NOVEL  USE   FOR  A  DIVER     173 

gentle  reader"  will  not  have  at  any  price.  That 
supreme  judge  must  therefore  pardon  the  ap- 
parent want  of  sequence  as  to  dates  in  the  fol- 
lowing chapters. 

On  January,  19th,  1895,  a  full-rigged  ship, 
the  "  Erato,"  of  Hamburg,  was  lying  in  the 
South  Dock,  Sunderland,  waiting  to  take  in  a 
cargo  of  coals.  Just  before  noon  a  youth  of 
nineteen,  named  J.  C.  Kanscheit,  was  sent  by 
the  chief  officer  into  the  forepeak  to  get  a  shovel. 
As  he  did  not  return  after  the  lapse  of  a  quarter 
of  an  hour,  the  second  officer  was  sent  to  look 
for  him.  That  officer  upon  descending  the 
ladder  into  the  forepeak,  was  seized  with  a 
dizziness  in  the  head  which  left  him  absolutely 
helpless.  The  chief  officer  had  followed  his 
subordinate  almost  immediately,  and  he,  too,  was 
similarly  affected.  The  two  men  stood  gaz- 
ing at  each  other  in  a  perfectly  powerless  state, 
though  quite  aware  that  they  were  slowly  be- 
coming insensible,  yet  too  benumbed  to  help 
themselves  in  any  way. 

Fortunately  for  the  two  officers  some  of  the 
seamen  had  seen  them  go  down  ;  they  went  to 
inquire  the  cause,  and  seeing  how  things  were, 

174       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

promptly  hauled  them  on  deck.  Arrived  there 
they,  by  dumb  show,  indicated  that  the  youth 
Kanscheit  was  still  down  below,  and  then  both 
of  the  officers  fell  to  the  deck  insensible. 

Naturally  the  mysterious  occurrence  caused 
a  wild  state  of  excitement,  and  while  some  of 
the  crew  set  to  work  to  restore  the  two  mates 
to  consciousness,  the  third  mate,  accompanied 
by  three  sailors,  slid  down  the  ladder  into  the 
forepeak  with  the  object  of  rescuing  the  young 
man.  Their  attempt  was  futile,  for  as  soon  as 
they  reached  the  flooring  of  the  forepeak  they 
found  themselves  unable  to  move  a  muscle,  and 
stood  staring  vacantly  at  each  other. 

These  repeated  failures  and  the  dreadful  con- 
sequences of  attempting  to  enter  the  place,  made 
the  rest  of  the  men  more  cautious,  and  instead 
of  any  more  of  them  going  below,  they  brought 
ropes  and  with  the  utmost  difficulty  hauled  the 
four  men  on  deck.  As  soon  as  they  came  into 
the  fresh  air  they  all  fell  to  the  deck  insensible. 

By  this  time  the  mysterious  affair  had  been 
noised  about,  and  a  large  and  awe-stricken  crowd 
surrounded  the  vessel.  Doctors  were  sent  for, 
and  very  soon  three  were  on  board  attending 

NOVEL  USE    FOR  A  DIVER     175 

to  the  sufferers,  who  were  promptly  taken  to  the 

At  this  point  someone  suggested  that  what 
was  wanted  was  a  diver,  and  the  happy  idea  was 
acted  upon  at  once,  Mr.  Watts  being  brought  to 
the  ship.  Hastily  donning  his  diving  suit  he  de- 
scended into  the  fatal  forepeak,  and  searched  the 
whole  of  the  first  floor  but  could  find  no  trace  of 
the  young  man.  He  then  went  into  the  lower 
hold  of  the  forepeak.  But  his  diving  dress, 
which  was  quite  impervious  to  water,  could  not 
keep  out  the  more  insidious  fumes  of  the  pois- 
onous air,  which  entered  his  dress  and  made  him 
so  ill  that  he  had  to  ascend  to  the  deck.  A 
drink  of  water  and  the  fresh  air  put  him  right, 
and  once  more  he  went  below,  This  time  he 
succeeded  in  finding  the  body  of  the  young  man 
and  brought  it  up.  The  youth  was  quite  dead, 
and  it  was  judged  from  a  terrible  gash  in  his 
forehead  and  other  marks  of  injury,  that  he  had 
fallen  from  the  first  to  the  second  floor  of  the 
place  and  had  died  there.  One  of  the  men  who 
had  gone  to  the  rescue  died  in  the  Infirmary  a 
few  hours  after  being  taken  there.  At  the 
Coroner's   inquiry  it  was  proved   that  the   two 

176       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

men  had  died  from  asphyxia,  caused  by  foul  air 
produced  by  the  ignition  of  the  contents  of  a 
cask  of  black  paint  in  the  forepeak,  but  how  the 
contents  of  the  cask  had  become  ignited  was 
never  discovered. 



A  true  understanding  of  things  is  to  be  derived  from  the 
things  themselves. — Scaliger. 

IT  often  happens  that  a  man  will  pay  a  big 
price  to  hear  some  great  musical  artist,  only 
to  come  away  at  the  close  of  the  performance 
sadly  disappointed.  In  such  cases  the  fault  is 
not  in  the  artist  but  in  the  listener,  who  has  not 
sufficient  knowledge  of  the  art  to  appreciate  the 
great  technical  difficulties  which  have  been  over- 
come to  enable  the  artist  to  do  what  he  does. 
It  is  the  same  with  all  arts  and  professions  ;  we 
must  have  at  least  some  little  knowledge  of  the 
technicalities  of  them  if  we  are  to  understand 
the  achievements  of  those  who  are  experts  in 

The  popular  ideas  as  to  the  business  of  a 
diver  are,  generally  speaking,  vague  and  erro- 
neous. Possibly  nine  people  out  of  ten,  even 
of  those  living  in  seaport  towns,  are  absolutely 


178      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

ignorant  of  the  commonest  facts  relating  to  div- 
ing ;  and  to  people  from  the  country  there  is 
something  uncanny  about  the  whole  business. 
The  man  in  the  street  supposes  that  all  that  is 
necessary  to  enable  a  man  to  become  a  diver, 
is  to  put  an  air-tight  suit  on  him,  clap  a  brass 
helmet  on  his  head,  pump  air  to  him  and — 
"  there  you  are!" 

Until  recent  years  there  was  a  great  deal  of 
rule-of-thumb  in  connection  with  diving  ;  and 
divers  were  seriously  injured,  or  even  lost  their 
lives,  without  anyone  knowing  the  real  reason 
why.  Then  gradually  empiricism  gave  way  to 
Science,  culminating  in  the  appointment  of  a 
Deep  Diving  Committee  by  the  Admiralty  in 
1906.  This  Committee's  conclusions  and  re- 
commendations are  published,  with  much  other 
valuable  information,  in  A  Diving  Manual,  a 
beautifully  illustrated  book  written  by  Mr.  R.  H. 
Davies,  Managing  Director  of  Messrs  Siebe, 
Gorman,  &  Co.,  Ltd.,  the  well-known  submarine 
engineers,  of  Westminster  Bridge  Road,  Lon- 
don. By  the  kind  permission  of  this  firm  I  am 
enabled  to  give  the  reader  some  interesting  in- 
formation  with    regard    to   diving,    information 

FACTS  ABOUT    DIVING         179 

without  which  it  is  impossible  to  appreciate 
rightly  the  work  of  Harry  Watts  as  a  diver. 

"  A  set  of  ordinary  diving  apparatus  consists 
essentially  of  seven  parts,  viz.,  (a)  a  helmet  with 
corselet ;  (b)  a  waterproof  diving  dress  ;  (c)  a 
length  of  flexible  tube  with  metal  couplings  ;  (d) 
pair  of  weighted  boots  ;  (e)  pair  of  lead  weights 
for  breast  and  back  ;  (f)  a  life  line  ;  (g)  an  air 

"Air  is  supplied  to  the  diver  through  a  non- 
return valve  at  the  back  of  the  helmet  by  means 
of  a  flexible  tube  connected  with  the  air  pump. 
The  air  escapes  through  a  spring  valve  at  the 
side  of  the  helmet,  this  valve  being  adjustable 
by  the  diver.  With  this  arrangement  the  pres- 
sure of  the  air  in  the  helmet  is  always  equal  to, 
or  slightly  greater  than,  the  water  pressure  at 
the  outlet  valve. 

"  It  is  absolutely  necessary  that  the  diver 
should  breathe  compressed  air,  otherwise  his 
breathing  would  be  instantly  stopped  and  blood 
would  flow  from  his  nose  and  mouth.  In  order 
to  enable  him  to  sink  and  to  stand  firmly  on  the 
bottom,  he  carries  a  4olb.  leaden  weight  on  his 
breast  and  a  similar  weight  on  his  back,  and 

180       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

i6lb.  of  lead  on  each  boot.  Altogether  the 
weight  of  the  equipment  which  he  actually 
wears  is  about  1751b. 

"  Besides  the  air  pipe  the  diver  is  usually 
connected  with  the  surface  by  a  signal  or  life 
line,  in  which,  in  most  cases,  are  embedded 
telephone  wires.*  He  usually  descends  by  a 
rope  (the  '  shot-rope '),  which  is  attached  to  a 
heavy  weight  which  has  been  previously  lowered 
to  the  bottom,  and  on  reaching  the  bottom  takes 
with  him  a  line  (the  '  distance-line  ')  attached 
to  this  weight,  so  that  he  can  always  find  the 
*  shot-rope  '  again. 

"  As  a  diver  enters  the  water  the  superfluous 
air  in  his  dress  is  driven  out  through  the  outlet 
valve  by  the  pressure  of  the  water  on  the  legs 
and  body.  The  water  seems  to  grip  him  all 
round.  If  the  valve  is  fairly  open  he  will  feel 
his  breathing  rather  laboured  by  the  time  he 
gets  his  valve  just  under  water.  The  reason  of 
this  is  that  the  pressure  in  his  lungs  is  that  of 
the  water  at  the  valve  outlet,  whereas  the  pres- 
sure on  his  chest  and  abdomen  is  greater  by 
something   like   a   foot   of  water.      He   is   thus 

*A  modern  development.      Mr.  Watts  had  not  this  advantage. 

FACTS  ABOUT    DIVING         181 

breathing  against  pressure,  and  if  he  has  to 
breathe  deeply,  as  during  exertion,  the  effect 
becomes  serious. 

"  One  of  the  first  things  therefore  that  the 
diver  has  to  learn  is  to  avoid  this  adverse  pres- 
sure by  adjusting  the  pressure  on  the  spring  on 
the  outlet  valve,  so  that  the  breathing  is  always 
quite  free.  The  spring  on  the  valve  at  the  same 
time  regulates  the  amount  of  air  in  the  dress, 
and  therefore  the  buoyancy  of  the  diver.  A 
practised  diver  can  thus  slip  easily,  and  without 
exertion,  up  or  down  the  shot-rope.  The 
breathing  is,  of  course,  easiest  when  the  dress 
is  full  of  air  down  to  the  level  of  the  abdomen  ; 
but,  when  this  is  so,  the  diver  runs  a  risk  of 
being  '  blown  up.' 

11  It  will  also  be  readily  understood  that  a 
horizontal,  or  nearly  horizontal,  position  is  the 
easiest  one  for  a  diver's  breathing,  and  many 
divers  work  crawling  on  the  ground.  In  this 
position  it  may  happen  that  too  much  air  gets 
into  the  dress.  If  the  air  is  allowed  to  get  into 
the  legs  of  the  dress,  the  diver  is  capsized  and 
blown  helplessly  to  the  surface,  or  he  may  be 
caught  by  a  rope  or  other  obstruction,  and  hung 

182       LIFE    OF   HARRY  WATTS 

up  in  a  helpless  position  with  his  legs  upper- 
most, the  excess  of  air  being  unable  to  escape  at 
the  outlet  valve  since  it  is  downwards.  To 
avoid  this  risk  there  is  an  arrangement  for 
lacing  up  the  legs  of  the  dress.  With  the  legs 
laced  up,  the  head  always  comes  uppermost  if 
the  diver  tends  to  float  upwards,  hence  the 
excess  of  air  escapes  by  the  valve." 

The  greatest  authenticated  depth  at  which 
divers  have  done  practical  work  is  35  fathoms  = 
210  feet.  This  was  accomplished  by  Lieut. 
Damant  and  Gunner  Catto  of  the  Royal  Navy, 
in  August,  1906.  The  reader  will  realise  better 
what  this  great  depth  means  if  a  comparison  is 
made  with  something  already  known  to  him. 
It  is  more  than  twice  the  depth  from  Wear- 
mouth  bridge  to  the  surface  of  the  river ;  and 
once  and  a  half  that  of  the  Nelson  Monument 
in  London. 

Possible  accidents  to  divers  are  classed  under 
four  heads: — (1)  Caisson  Disease;  (2)  Asphyxia 
or  carbonic  acid  gas  (C02)  poisoning  ;  (3) 
drowning  ;  (4)  hemorrhage. 

Caisson  disease  is  the  formation  of  air  bubbles 
in  the  blood  of  tissues,  owing  to  the  too  sudden 

FACTS  ABOUT    DIVING         183 

decompression  of  the  diver — that  is  to  say  the 
too  sudden  return  to  the  normal  pressure  of  the 
atmosphere  after  breathing  compressed  air.  The 
diver  breathes  three  important  gases — oxygen, 
nitrogen,  and  COz.  Of  these  the  nitrogen  alone 
can  remain  and  accumulate  in  the  blood  ;  the 
oxygen  is  used  up  by  the  blood,  and  the  breath- 
ing prevents  the  pressure  of  C02  from  ever 
increasing  ;  so  that  the  only  gas  which  accumu- 
lates in  abnormal  quantity  when  the  diver  is 
under  pressure  is  the  nitrogen. 

"When  the  gas  is  forced  into  a  soda  water 
bottle  under  pressure,  the  water  appears  to  be 
unchanged  so  long  as  the  pressure  is  kept  up, 
but  the  moment  we  reduce  the  pressure  by  tak- 
ing out  the  cork,  we  see  the  gas  come  bubbling 
off  the  liquid. 

11  If  we  apply  the  analogy  to  diving,  the  diver 
is  the  soda  water  bottle,  and  his  blood  is  the 
fluid  in  the  bottle.  As  the  diver  descends,  nitro- 
gen under  pressure  is  forced  into  contact  with 
his  blood.  The  blood  takes  up  the  nitrogen 
from  the  air.  So  long  as  he  stays  below  under 
that  pressure,  his  blood  appears  to  be  unaltered ; 
when,  however,  he  rises,  the  excess  of  nitrogen 

1 84       LIFE    OF  HARRY  WATTS 

that  the  blood  has  taken  up  begins  slowly  to 
bubble  off;  if  the  blood  were  as  fluid  as  water 
it  would  come  off  as  rapidly  as  from  the  soda 
water.  Fortunately  for  the  diver  the  blood  is  a 
thickish,  albuminous  fluid,  in  which  bubbles  do 
not  readily  form,  and,  as  far  as  we  can  see,  it 
can  retain  about  twice  the  amount  in  solution 
that  water  can  keep  at  any  given  pressure. 
Every  diver  knows  that  it  is  quite  safe  to  come 
up  from  a  depth  of  from  five  to  six  fathoms  to 
the  surface  as  quickly  as  he  likes  ;  the  reason 
for  this  will  now  be  easily  understood,  since  at 
such  a  depth  the  blood  has  only  twice  as  much 
nitrogen  in  it  as  it  has  on  the  surface,  and  there- 
fore bubbles  are  unlikely  to  form.  If,  however, 
the  diver  has  been  for  any  considerable  time  at, 
say,  jo  fathoms  and  then  comes  up  quickly,  it 
is  almost  certain  that  bubbles  will  form  and 
cause  serious  symptoms." 

These  bubbles  of  nitrogen  may  come  off  in 
the  blood  vessels  themselves,  filling  the  right 
side  of  the  heart  with  air,  and  causing  death  in 
a  few  minutes.  In  less  sudden  cases  the  bub- 
bles form  in  the  brain  or  spinal  cord,  leading 
to  paralysis  of  the  legs  (diver's  palsy),  whilst  in 

FACTS  ABOUT    DIVING         185 

less  serious  cases  there  may  be  only  severe  pains 
in  the  joints  and  muscles. 

When  a  diver  has  come  up  quickly  from  a 
considerable  depth,  and  shows  symptoms  of  this 
disease,  "  the  only  chance  of  recovery  is  quickly 
to  recompress  the  sufferer "  by  lowering  him 
down  again  into  water  for  ten  or  fifteen  fathoms. 
"  Even  if  the  diver  is  quite  unconscious  this 
procedure  should  be  followed,  as  it  affords  the 
only  chance  of  his  life  being  saved." 

Another  class  of  cases  is  where  paralytic 
symptoms  come  on  from  ten  minutes  to  half  an 
hour  after  the  diver  has  returned  to  the  surface. 

The  danger  of  drowning  arises  from  the  lia- 
bility of  the  diving  dress  to  be  torn  ;  and  hem- 
orrhage is  usually  caused  by  the  blocking  of  the 
Eustachian  tubes — narrow  pipes  at  the  back  of 
the  throat  through  which  air  can  pass  to  the  in- 
ner side  of  the  ear  drum. 

"  The  superficial  area  of  an  ordinary  -  sized 
man's  body  is  about  2,160  square  inches,  so  that 
in  atmospheric  air  the  total  pressure  on  the 
man's  body  is  32,400  lb.  At  a  depth  of  33 
feet  of  sea  water,  the  total  pressure  would  be 
64,800  lb.     So  long  as  the  pressure  is  equally 

1 86     LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

distributed  throughout  the  body  by  the  body 
fluids,  it  has  no  effect." 

The  total  weight  of  a  diver's  equipment  (that 
is,  the  parts  which  he  actually  wears,  and  exclu- 
sive of  his  air  pipe)  is  about  175  lb.  ;  therefore 
a  diver  (say  a  twelve-stone  man),  fully  equipped, 
would  have  a  total  weight  of  343  lb. 

"  The  depth  to  which  daylight  penetrates 
under  water  varies  with  the  locality.  For  in- 
stance, in  some  of  the  Scottish  lochs  the  water 
is  so  dark  that  daylight  is  lost  to  the  diver  when 
but  a  few  feet  below  the  surface.  On  the  other 
hand,  off  the  Rock  of  Gibraltar  and  in  some 
tropical  waters,  he  can  see  perfectly  clearly  when 
thirty  fathoms  (180  feet)  and  more  down. 

11  For  deep  sea  diving,  or  work  involving  very 
long  stays  on  the  bottom  at  more  than  ten  fath- 
oms (60  feet),  men  beyond  the  age  of  forty-five 
ought  not  to  be  employed.  Really  fat  men 
should  never  be  allowed  to  work  in  compressed 

The  air  pump  is  worked  by  two  men  for 
shallow  depths,  but  three  or  even  four  men  are 
required  when  the  diver  is  working  at  a  great 
depth.     The  air  pump  is   fitted   with   pressure 

FACTS  ABOUT    DIVING         187 

gauges,  which  show  the  number  of  revolutions 
per  minute  required  to  raise  the  pressure  to  any 
number  of  pounds  per  square  inch  up  to  75  lb. 

"  On  public  works  in  England  the  rate  of  pay- 
to  helmet  divers  is  from  2/-  to  2/6  per  hour.  In 
some  cases,  however,  the  men  are  paid  a  stand- 
ing wage  of  about  30/-  to  £2  per  week,  and 
an  extra  1/6  per  hour  when  diving. 

11  In  the  case  of  well  work,  flooded  mines, 
salvage  operations,  &c,  the  pay  depends  upon 
the  depth  of  water  and  the  risk  incurred.  Well 
work :  from  1 4/-  to  20/-  per  shift.  Flooded  mines : 
from  20/-  to  40/-  a  shift.  Salvage  work  (ship 
raising)  :  in  some  cases  where  vessels  are  sunk 
in  shallow  water,  the  divers  are  paid  a  standing 
wage  of  20/-  a  day,  '  work  or  play  '  ;  in  others 
the  pay  may  be  a  standing  wage  of  £2  a  week, 
plus  an  extra  sum  per  hour  when  diving  ;  or  the 
men  may  be  paid  for  diving  time  only,  from  20/- 
a  tide  and  upwards.  In  cases  where  the  diver 
provides  his  own  apparatus  and  linesmen,  he 
may  get  40/-  per  shift  or  tide. 

"  In  cases  of  deep  sea  salvage  (cargo  and 
treasure  recovery),  the  divers  are  sometimes 
paid  a  weeky  wage,  plus  a  percentage  on  the 

188       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

value  recovered,  calculated  according  to  the 
depth  of  water,  &c.  In  the  case  of  the 
'Alphonso  XII.'  and  the  'Skyro'  operations, 
Lambert  and  Erostarbe  received  £40  and  £30 
a  month  respectively,  plus  five  per  cent,  of  the 
value  of  the  specie  they  brought  up.  Lambert 
received  ,£70,000,  Erostarbe  £10,000." 

Those  few  extracts  from  Mr.  Davis's  very 
interesting  book  do  not  by  any  means  do  full 
justice  to  the  subject  ;  but  they  may  perhaps 
help  the  reader  to  comprehend  and  appreciate 
more  fully  than  he  otherwise  would  the  inci- 
dents of  Henry  Watts's  life  as  a  diver  which 
have  already  been  related  and  those  which  are 
now  to  be  told. 



He  holds  no  parley  with  unmanly  fears  : 
Where  duty  bids,  he  confidently  steers. 

— Wordsworth. 

ON  June  30th,  1877,  an  official  from  the 
Dalton-le-Dale  Waterworks  called  upon 
Henry  Watts  with  a  view  to  securing  his  ser- 
vices. The  special  work  required  was  to  go 
down  a  "  pilot  shaft "  to  take  out  a  plug  and  re- 
place it  with  a  longer  one.  Henry  asked  how 
deep  the  water  was,  and  on  being  told  twenty- 
five  fathoms  (150  feet),  he  said,  "Well,  I  am 
getting  up  in  years,  and  I  don't  care  to  risk  go- 
ing down  that  depth.*  If  any  man's  life  was 
in  danger  I'd  go  down — I'd  willingly  go  and  try 
to  save  him,  but  I'll  not  go  for  pay." 

"  Can  you  tell  me  where  to  get  a  diver  then?" 

*  Mr.  Watts  was  then  in  his  51st  year,  and  though  quite  able  to 
do  his  ordinary  work  as  a  diver,  in  the  shallow  water  of  the  docks 
and  river,  was  past  the  age  when  he  could  go  to  great  depths 
without  serious  risk. 

i9o       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

"Oh,  anywhere  about  the  Tyne,"  was  the 
reply ;  and  from  a  number  of  names  Henry 
gave  him  he  finally  secured  the  services  of  a 
Mr.  Littleboy,  a  big  stout  man,  about  eighteen 
stone  weight. 

A  local  newspaper  of  July  6th,  1877,  in  an 
account  of  what  followed,  says  : — 

"  On  Thursday  morning  Mr.  Littleboy  went  down 
again  about  11  o'clock.  His  dress  and  the  ma- 
chinery were  all  in  good  order,  and  his  brother  and 
a  cousin  attended  to  the  air  pump.  A  system  of 
quarter  hour  signals  had  been  adopted,  and  all  went 
on  well  until  about  two  o'clock.  Then  for  the  first 
time  the  signals  of  those  on  terra  firma  were  not 
replied  to,  and  naturally  great  alarm  spread  among 
those  present.  Attempts  were  made  to  pull  Little- 
boy up  the  shaft,  by  means  of  the  gear  provided, 
but  they  unfortunately  proved  ineffectual.  Failing 
to  get  diving  apparatus  from  Seaham,  those  in 
authority  at  once  communicated  with  the  River 
Wear  Commissioners  at  Sunderland." 

It  was  on  Thursday  that  Henry  had  been 
asked  to  go  out,  and  it  was  exactly  a  week  after- 
wards that  he  was  surprised  by  a  visit  from  Mr. 
Wake,  the  River  Wear  Commissioners'  engi- 
neer, who  asked  him  if  he  was  prepared  to  keep 
his  promise  about  the  Dalton  shaft.      He  had 


forgotten  the  promise,  but  on  being  reminded 
of  it  said  promptly,  "  Certainly,  I'll  go!"  and 
he  at  once  went  off  to  see  Mr.  Dodds,  the  Com- 
missioners' general  manager. 

That  gentleman,  of  course,  gave  him  permis- 
sion to  go,  at  the  same  time  telling  him  to  be 
very  careful  and  to  take  the  best  gear  and  the 
best  assistants  he  could  get.  Mr.  Dodds  and 
Mr.  Wake  both  went  out  to  Dalton  and  re- 
mained there  till  Henry  had  finished  his  task. 

Arrived  at  Dalton  he  found  two  divers  there 
from  Seaham,  but  they  had  made  no  attempt  to 
go  down.  Henry  hastily  donned  his  dress  and 

Having  read  the  facts  about  diving  in  the 
previous  chapter,  the  reader  will  be  able  to  form 
some  idea  of  what  Henry  had  to  risk  in  his 
voluntary  task.  The  depth  of  the  shaft  from 
the  bank  to  the  surface  of  the  water  was  312 
feet,  and  from  the  surface  of  the  water  to  where 
the  diver  had  to  work  was  120  feet,#  and  the 
work  had  to  be  done,  of  course,  in  absolute  dark- 

*  The  depth  of  water  had  been  reduced  by  30  feet  before  the 
diving  operations  were  begun. 

192     LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

Let  us,  just  for  once,  accompany  him  in 
imagination  on  his  perilous  journey.  Take  care 
with  the  diving  dress,  now  !  We  are  in  a  hurry, 
yes,  but  a  moment's  gain  by  neglect  now  may 
mean  an  hour's  wait  presently  to  put  it  right — 
and  it  may  mean  more  than  that,  so  be  careful. 
Is  everything  fixed  ?  Yes,  well,  on  with  the 
helmet — wait  a  minute,  don't  screw  on  the  front 
glass  just  yet ;  who's  at  the  air  pump  ?  for  much 
depends  upon  them.  And  who's  at  the  signal 
line  and  air  pipe  ?  for  that  is  as  important  as  the 
air  pump.  Ah,  they  are  all  capable,  trustworthy 
men  ;  screw  up  then  ! 

The  diameter  of  the  shaft  is  ten  feet,  and 
across  it  is  a  winch  with  a  steel  rope  to  which 
is  attached  a  "  kibble,"  or  basket,  in  which  the 
workmen  descend.  Into  the  "kibble"  he  gets 
and  is  lowered  carefully  down  the  shaft — down 
and  down,  312  feet  he  descends  before  he 
reaches  the  surface  of  the  water.  It  is  a  long 
way  down,  but  it  is  the  easiest  part  of  his 
journey.  He  pauses  a  minute  on  the  stage 
there  to  gather  his  energies  together,  then,  with 
an  "  All  well,"  signal  on  the  rope,  he  enters  the 
water.     There  is  here  but  a  dread  silence  and  a 






\*  4*22/^. 

A    Short  Shaft. 

B     Deep  Shaft. 

C    Drift  connecting 

A  and  B. 
D    Water  Surface. 

Note. — The  section  show- 
ing- earth  between  shafts 
is  not  drawn  to  scale, 
it  has  been  widened  to 
give  a  better  idea  of  the 
two  shafts. 

Depth  of  Well  430  ft. 
Depth   of  Water  in  Well 

120  ft. 
Diameter  of  Shaft  B  10  ft. 

Section  of  Pilot  Shaft, 


Pumping  Station. 


and  South  Shields 

Water  Co. 

^l&kfole   scale-x  in.  =  105-6  ft. 

i94       LIFE    OF   HARRY  WATTS 

darkness  that  may  be  felt.  What  unknown 
perils  is  he  going  to?  His  only  guide  is  the 
air  pipe  or  the  rope  of  the  diver  already  below. 
He  slips  down  it,  down  and  down,  but  suddenly 
his  hand  grips  the  rope  and  he  stops  his  descent. 

What  is  the  matter  ?  There  is  a  singing  in  his 
ears,  and  a  horrible  dizziness  has  seized  him, 
while  his  whole  body  feels  as  though  gripped  in 
a  giant  vice.  But  he  knows  what  these  things 
mean.  He  has  gone  down  so  quickly  that  the 
pressure  of  the  air  in  his  dress  has  not  been  kept 
equal  to  the  pressure  of  the  water ;  and  here,  as 
everywhere,  Law,  which  knows  no  mercy,  is 
waiting  to  punish  instantly  any  mistake  that 
may  be  made. 

But  he  has  stopped  in  the  nick  of  time.  He 
hastily  signals  "  More  air! "  regulates  the  valve 
in  his  helmet,  and  as  the  pumps  go  round  more 
quickly,  the  pressure  inside  his  dress  overcomes 
that  outside  his  dress,  and  once  more  he  breathes 

Down  he  goes  again,  for  he  is  no  more  than 
half-way  to  where  he  would  be  ;  down  and 
down,  but  more  warily  now,  for  every  foot  he 
descends  the  pressure  of  the  water   increases. 


At  last  his  feet  touch  the  "  brattice  "  or  small 
stage  ;  he  signals  "  Arrived ",  and  stands  a 
moment  to  get  his  bearings.  There  is  no  ray 
of  light,  no  sound,  no  movement ;  he  is  alone  in 
a  dead  world,  1 20  feet  under  water  ! 

What  next  ?  Cautiously  he  feels  about  the 
stage  to  find  how  wide  it  may  be,  but  is  careful 
not  to  let  go  of  the  other  diver's  rope.  He  kneels, 
slipping  his  hand  along  the  rope,  which  leads 
underneath  the  stage.  Be  careful  now,  Harry, 
be  very  careful,  for  the  least  slip  and  you  will 
never  see  daylight  again  ! 

At  this  depth  the  water  pressure  is  52  lb.  to 
the  square  inch,  so  that  there  is  on  the  whole 
surface  of  his  body  the  enormous  pressure  of 
112,220  lb. — some  50  tons  above  atmospheric 
pressure !  But  so  long  as  the  pressure  inside 
and  outside  the  dress  is  equal  he  feels  no 
effect  of  it — at  present.  The  danger  will  be  in 
coming  up  again,  for  a  too  sudden  release  from 
that  great  pressure  is  as  dangerous  as  a  too 
sudden  descent  into  it,  more  so  indeed.  But 
danger!  He  is  surrounded  by  dangers.  Let 
but  the  air  pump  go  wrong  for  a  few  minutes,  or 
the  air  pipe  become  jammed,  and  a  fearful  death 

196     LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

awaits  him.  Not  death  by  suffocation,  no,  that 
were  kindly  compared  with  what  would  happen  ; 
for,  the  diving  dress  being  flexible  and  the 
helmet  inflexible,  if  the  pressure  of  air  inside 
the  dress  be  reduced,  the  giant  pressure  of  the 
water  will  squeeze  his  body  up  into  the  helmet 
— a  fearful  possibility  view  it  how  we  may. 

But  he  is  not  thinking  of  these  things,  nor  of 
the  many  other  possibilities  of  his  strange  situa- 
tion ;  his  mind  is  intent  on  the  task  he  has  in 
hand.  Across  the  narrow  staging  he  gropes  his 
way,  till  at  last  the  other  diver's  rope  is  straight 
up  and  down,  and  he  knows  he  is  not  far  from 
him.  Carefully  he  lays  himself  flat  down  on  the 
staging  and  feels  underneath  it.  Ugh !  He 
hastily  withdraws  his  hand,  for  he  knows  now, 
only  too  well,  what  has  happened.  What  is  it  ? 
He  has  felt  the  feet  of  the  other  man,  which  are 
jammed  against  the  underneath  part  of  the 
staging,  for  he  is  hanging  head  downwards  like 
a  fly  on  the  ceiling,  and  Henry  knows  he  is 
dead,  must  have  been  dead  for  some  hours. 
The  poor  fellow  had  probably,  as  the  newspaper 
report  says,  "  taken  a  faint  fit  and  fallen  off  the 
stage."     Yes,  and  as  the  air  supply  was  kept 


up  without  intermission,  he  had  been  forced  up 
by  it,  head  downwards,  against  the  under  side 
of  the  stage,  where  the  pressure  of  air  would 
keep  him  fixed  and  unable  to  move  even  had  he 
been  conscious,  for  the  air-escape  valve  is  in  the 
helmet,  and  it  being  downward  no  air  can  es- 
cape till  the  whole  dress  is  full  at  high  pressure. 

Does  the  reader  realize  what  had  happened  ? 
An  ordinary  inflated  football  is  a  familiar  illus- 
tration of  compressed  air.  Press  it  between 
the  hands  and  feel  its  resistance.  And  that  is 
only  a  very  low  pressure.  Under  the  high  pres- 
sure of  these  great  depths  the  diver's  dress  will, 
unless  he  properly  regulates  the  air-valve,  be- 
come rigid,  so  that  his  arms  and  legs  will  stand 
out  from  him  like  iron  bars,  and  with  no  more 
chance  of  his  bending  them  than  if  they  were 
made  of  that  metal. 

So  one  can  get  some  conception  of  what  had 
happened  to  that  poor  diver  at  Dalton,  and  so, 
too,  one  can  begin  to  realize  the  risk  Harry 
Watts  took  in  going  to  the  rescue.  Who  then 
shall  grudge  him  the  honours  paid  to  him  for 
deeds  such  as  this  ? 

And  Littleboy  ?    Alas,  it  was  a  terrible  death  ! 

198      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

One  can  but  hope,  if  he  did  fall  off  the  stage  in 
a  faint,  that  he  never  recovered  consciousness, 
for  oh,  the  eternity  of  horror  if  conscious  while 
in  such  a  position,  and  knowing  there  was  abso- 
lutely no  chance  of  help  !  'Tis  a  nightmare  of 
a  scene,  pursuing  one  during  sleep  for  many  a 
night  after  reading  of  it.  God  help  us,  that 
men  should  perforce  have  thus  to  go  hobnob- 
bing with  Death  for  a  crust  of  bread  ! 

Henry  Watts  went  down  the  shaft  at  nine 
o'clock  in  the  evening,  and  came  to  the  surface 
a  quarter  of  an  hour  later  to  tell  the  news  of 
Littleboy's  death.  Then  after  a  short  inter- 
val he  descended  again,  and  this  time  brought 
up  the  body  of  the  unfortunate  diver. 

Why  did  he  come  up  after  only  a  quarter  of 
an  hour  under  water  ?  Why  not  have  finished 
what  he  had  to  do  while  he  was  below  ?  Very 
natural  questions,  and  I  asked  him  to  explain. 
He  said  he  came  up  because  he  wanted  to  get 
his  breath,  and  also  because  he  was  being  nipped 
by  the  pressure  to  such  an  extent  that  he  thought 
his  ribs  were  being  broken.  The  scientific  ex- 
planation is  to  be  found  in  the  book  issued  by 
Messrs.  Siebe  Gorman,  &  Co.     I  n  the  table  show- 


ing  the  time  limits  allowed  in  deep  water,  &c, 
it  is  stated  that  to  stop  at  the  depth  he  was 
working  at  for  twenty-five  minutes  it  is  neces- 
sary for  the  diver,  in  ascending,  to  take  a  stop- 
page of  five  minutes  at  thirty  feet,  ten  minutes 
at  twenty  feet,  and  fifteen  minutes  at  ten  feet, 
a  total  of  thirty-three  minutes  in  ascending 
to  the  surface.  This  is,  of  course,  to  allow 
the  proper  time  for  decompression  and  to  get 
rid  of  the  nitrogen  which  has  accumulated  in 
the  blood.  To  ascend  after  but  a  few  minutes 
would  not  be  dangerous,  because  the  nitrogen 
would  not  have  had  time  to  get  into  the  blood 
to  such  an  extent  as  to  be  serious. 

Here,  then,  was  Harry  Watts,  though  many 
years  past  the  time  of  life  when  it  was  safe  for 
him  to  go  into  great  depths,  taking  that  risk, 
and  the  many  others  which  accompanied  it,  for 
the  purpose  of  trying  to  rescue  a  fellow  man 
from  danger;  and  finding  it  was  too  late  to  do 
that  he  still  incurred  the  risk  to  recover  the 
body.  But  that  being  done  he  would  not  under- 
take to  do  the  work  which  Littleboy  had  tried 
to  do,  and  men  were  got  from  Messrs.  Siebe 
Gorman,  &  Co.,  London,  to  complete  the  task. 

200       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

Here  we  may  appropriately  introduce  the 
following  letter  : — 

While  Mr.  Littleboy,  diver,  from  Tyne  Dock,  was 
engaged  in  the  well  at  Dalton  Water  Works,  on 
the  5th  of  July,  1877,  taking  a  plug  out  of  a  bore- 
hole, he  accidentally  met  his  death  while  at  work, 
and  could  not  be  got  out  on  account  of  the  air  pipe 
coming  in  contact  with  the  pump,  until  we  obtained 
the  assistance  of  Mr.  Henry  Watts,  diver  for  the 
River  Wear  Commissioners.  Mr.  Watts  went  down 
through  19  fathoms,  5  feet  6  inches  [120  feet  less 
six  inches],  before  he  released  him.  Total  depth 
from  surface,  72  fathoms  [432  feet]. 

J.    R.    RUDDICK. 

Who  was  Mr.  Ruddick  ?  For  a  long  time 
this  was  a  problem  which  no  one  could  solve. 
Even  Henry,  who  had  the  above  letter  from 
him,  vowed  that  he  had  never  known  such  a 
man.  He  spoke  of  Mr.  Robson,  the  engineer 
at  Dalton,  and  others  spoke  of  him  too,  but  no 
one  seemed  to  know  Mr.  Ruddick.  Then  by 
an  accident  I  discovered  that  Mr.  Robson  and 
Mr.  Ruddick  were  one  and  the  same  person. 
The  full  and  correct  name  is  James  Robson 
Ruddick,   and    he  was    the    Master    Sinker  at 


Dalton.  He  was  known  to  everyone  by  his 
family  name  of  Robson,  but  of  course  when 
signing  documents  he  was  bound  to  put  his 
correct  name. 

Mr.  Davis,  Managing  Director  of  Messrs. 
Siebe,  Gorman  &  Co.,  Ltd.,  who  kindly  went 
through  these  chapters  on  diving  with  a  view 
to  correcting  them,  in  commenting  on  the 
Dalton  incident,  says  : — "  You  describe  Watts 
as  having  been  fully  dressed  before  he  went 
over  the  edge  of  the  well.  .  .  .  Nowadays, 
we  would,  if  at  all  possible,  rig  up  a  stage  just 
above  the  surface  of  the  water,  where  the  diver 
would  put  on  his  heavy  gear  (boots,  weights, 
and  helmet),  and  thus  be  saved  the  labour  of 
carrying  all  this  deadweight.  It  is  quite  possible 
that  Watts  did  carry  this  weight  from  the 
ground  level  to  the  water,  and,  in  that  case,  all 
the  more  credit  is  due  to  him." 

Inquiry  shows  that  Mr.  Watts  did  go  down 
fully  dressed  as  described.  The  matter  was  so 
urgent  that  he  got  into  his  diving  dress  im- 
mediately on  his  arrival,  and  went  down  without 
a  moment's  loss  of  time. 

Here  are  some  letters  which  show  apprecia- 

202      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

tion  of  the  successful   work   which    Mr.   Watts 
did  at  flooded  mines,  wells,  &c.  : — 

Wheatley  Hill  Colliery, 
near  Ferry  Hill, 

Dec.  27th,  1872. 

Gentlemen, — I  am  glad  to  be  able  to  inform  you 
that  your  very  worthy  servant,  Mr.  Watts,  has 
succeeded  in  the  most  complete  and  satisfactory 
manner  in  liberating  and  setting  to  work  the  main 
pumping  set  of  our  colliery. 

The  matter  was  threatening  to  become  a  very 
serious  affair  for  the  company,  the  bottom  set  of 
pumps  having  become  choked  by  the  piling  up  of 
the  shaft  with  debris.  Pumping  consequently 
ceased,  the  water  rose,  filling  up  a  considerable 
part  of  the  mine,  and  threatening  to  drown  all  the 
horses  and  ponies.  To  have  drawn  the  pumps  out 
would  have  involved  a  serious  cost. 

It  was  fortunate,  therefore,  for  us  to  be  favoured 
with  the  brave,  heroic,  and  able  services  of  your 
Mr.  Watts,  who  had  to  accomplish  his  work  under 
the  most  adverse  circumstances,  but  who  succeeded 
in  the  most  pleasing  and  determined  style. 

I  am,  gentlemen,  yours  very  truly, 

Jos.   Finney,   Engineer. 

River  Wear  Commissioners, 


Wheatley  Hill  Colliery  Office, 
Ferry  Hill, 

June  20th,  1874. 

Mr.  Henry  Watts,  Diver, 

My  Dear  Sir, — I  write  this  by  way  of  expressing 
my  best  wishes  for  your  future,  because  of  the 
hazardous  calling  named  above,  for  which,  how- 
ever, you  seem  admirably  adapted  in  that  strong 
perseverance  and  determination  which  it  has  been 
our  misfortune  to  witness  again  of  you  at  Wheatley 
Hill — misfortune  as  regards  our  accident  to  pumps, 
but,  I  should  say,  good  fortune  as  it  regards  being 
able  to  secure  the  very  noble  services  you  have 
rendered  us. 

I  am  happy  to  inform  you  that  the  pumps  are 
again  in  full  swing,  and  the  miners,  I  dare  say, 
thankful  that  a  prospect  of  early  work  is  presented 
to  them. 

I  have  the  pleasure  to  be,  my  dear  sir, 
Yours  faithfully, 

Jos.  Finney,  Engineer. 

Wheatley  Hill  Colliery  Office, 
Ferry  Hill, 

Jan.  20th,  1879. 
Dear  Sir, — I  am  very  happy  to  inform  you  that 
we  are  now  in  first-class  order  ;  we  have  got  our 
water  down  and  sump  all  cleaned  out.     So  much 

204      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

for  your  able  services  in  taking  off  the  clack  door. 
Had  it  not  been  so  we  would  have  been  in  a  sad 

All  friends  send  their  respects  to  you,  and  would 
be  glad  to  see  you  at  any  time,  but  not  on  such  an 

Yours  truly, 

W.   Potts. 
Mr.  Watts,  Sunderland. 

Lambton  Colliery  Works, 
Fence  Houses, 

Oct.  nth,  1878. 
Dear  Sir, — I  have  much  pleasure  in  bearing  testi- 
mony to  the  valuable  services  rendered  by  you  at 
the  Earl  of  Durham's  Houghton  Colliery,  in  recover- 
ing a  i2in.  set  of  pumps  which  had  been  lost  by  the 
breaking  of  a  rope  while  the  bucket  was  being 
changed,  the  water  rising  some  twenty-five  feet 
above  the  door.  And  although  you  had  never  been 
in  the  pit  before,  you  succeeded  in  getting  the 
pumps  to  work  to  my  entire  satisfaction  in  a  little 
over  two  hours,  and  thus  saved  us  the  tedious  and 
expensive  process  of  drawing  the  set. 
I  am, 

Yours  respectfully, 

James  Young,  Supt.  Engineer. 

Mr.  Henry  Watts, 

14,  Sans  Street,  Sunderland. 


Trimdon  Grange  Colliery, 
County  Durham, 

Feb.  10th,  1887. 
Mr.  Watts, 

Dear  Sir, — I  have  much  pleasure  in  bearing  testi- 
mony to  the  valuable  services  rendered  by  you  at 
the  Walter  Scott  pumping-  pit,  by  your  recovering 
a  24m.  pumping  set,  and  getting  the  clack  out  and 
replacing  it  again.  It  has  saved  us  a  great  ex- 
pense, and  also  been  the  means  of  keeping  the  other 
collieries  at  work.  Now  we  have  got  the  bucket 
in  the  working  barrel  again  and  we  are  going  all 


Yours  truly, 

Geo.   Bullick,  Engineer. 

Hendon  Paper  Works. 

This  is  to  certify  that  Mr.  Henry  Watts,  diver 
for  the  River  Wear  Commissioners,  did  on  the 
undermentioned  dates  put  our  deep  well  pump  into 
working  order  to  our  entire  satisfaction  : — 

Our  bottom  clack,  which  is  17  feet  below  the 
surface  of  the  water,  we  had  tried  to  draw,  and 
after  all  our  attempts  failed  we  sent  for  Mr.  Watts, 
who  came  with  his  diving  apparatus,  went  down, 
took  off  the  bottom  door,  and  took  off  the  clack 
and  replaced  it  with  a  new  one.  On  examining  the 
door  he  found  that  it  also  was  cracked  right  across 
the  centre.  This  he  replaced  temporarily  with  a 
mahogany  door.      Feb.  9th,  1877. 

206       LIFE    OF   HARRY  WATTS 

Second  Time. — After  we  had  got  a  new  door 
cast  Mr.  Watts  was  sent  for  and  he  again  went 
down  the  well,  took  off  the  wood  door  and  put  on 
the  metal  one.      Feb.  12th,  1877. 

Third  Time. — The  joint  again  failed,  caused  by 
the  weld  of  hoop-iron  breaking  away.  Mr.  Watts 
was  sent  for  to  remake  the  joint,  which  he  did. 
Feb.  13th,  1877. 

Fourth  Time. — Mr.  Watts  was  sent  for  to  renew 
the  joint  of  the  door  again.     This  was  a  bad  joint 
to  make,   the    casting    being   slightly   twisted  and 
rough  from  the  foundry.      Sept.  29th,  1877. 

Henry  Glenny,  Foreman. 

Sunderland  and  South  Shields  Water  Co., 
Fawcett  Street,  Sunderland, 

2nd  Sept.,  1887. 
Mr.  Henry  Watts,  Sunderland. 

Dear  Sir, — I  have  pleasure  in  testifying  to  the 
valuable  services  rendered  by  you  to  this  Company 
at  their  Cleadon  Pumping  Station,  by  your  re- 
covering from  the  well  a  broken  bucket  sword  and 
crossbar  which  was  submerged  in  about  five  fathoms 

of  water. 

Yours  truly, 

J.   W.   Sutherland,  Secretary. 

Mr.  Watts  was  once  engaged  taking  off  the 
clack  door  of  a  24m.  set  of  pumps  at   Kelloe 


Winning  Pit.  There  was  a  pump  at  Kelloe, 
and  another  at  the  New  Winning  Pit.  The 
latter  went  wrong,  and  Henry  went  down  to 
attend  to  it  as  stated,  the  pump  at  Kelloe 
keeping  the  water  down  in  the  meantime. 
While  he  was  at  work  the  pump  at  Kelloe 
suddenly  stopped  and  the  water  immediately 
began  to  rise  where  he  was  working,  and  that 
with  such  rapidity  that  it  was  only  with  the 
greatest  exertions  on  the  part  of  those  at  bank 
that  he  was  rescued,  he  having  to  be  drawn  up 
in  a  loop  of  rope. 

The  chief  engineer  at  Newbottle  Pit,  near 
Houghton-le-Spring,  once  came  riding  into 
Sunderland  post  haste  to  secure  Mr.  Watts' s 
services  to  put  a  bucket  door  on  a  pump.  It 
was  a  dangerous  piece  of  work,  but  was  neces- 
sary, as  the  whole  neighbourhood  for  three  miles 
round  was  dependent  upon  the  pump  for  water. 
He  went  off  at  once,  and  had  a  most  exhaust- 
ing day's  work,  being  under  water  most  of  the 
time,  but  succeeded  in  accomplishing  the  task. 
During  the  progress  of  the  work  he  fainted, 
owing  partly  to  the  heavy  work  and  partly  to 
the  fact  that  the  air  pump  which  supplied  him 

208       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

with  air  had  been  placed  in  the  engine  room, 
hence  warm  air  was  pumped  down  to  him. 
When  he  recovered   he  asked  for  a  drink. 

"  Drink  of  what  ?"  he  was  asked,  for  the  en- 
gineer and  officials  doubtless  thought  that  he 
had  had  enough  of  water,  and  would  require 
something  stronger. 

"  Drink  o'  what  ?"  Wey,  watter,  ti  be  sure  !" 
said  Henry,  and  water  it  was,  those  standing 
around  giving  a  hearty  cheer  at  his  decision. 

It  was  suggested  to  Henry  that  the  Dalton 
Water  Works  incident  was  the  most  dangerous 
piece  of  work  he  had  ever  done  as  a  diver,  but 
he  dissented  from  this  and  gave  the  particulars 
of  what  he  considered  the  most  dangerous  task 
he  had  ever  been  engaged  in.  Near  the  No.  2 
Graving  Dock  was  an  engine  which  pumped 
the  water  out  of  a  long-  drift,  and  in  order  to 
repair  the  engine  it  was  necessary  to  put  a  plug 
in  position  at  the  far  end  of  the  drift  to  keep 
the  water  out  while  the  engine  was  being  re- 
paired. The  drift  was  forty-five  feet  in  length, 
and  so  low  that  Henry  with  his  diving  gear  on 
could  not  go  along  it  on  his  hands  and  knees, 
but  had  to  lie  down  almost  flat  and  creep  along 


in  that  position  as  best  he  could.  One  diver 
had  refused  to  do  the  work  when  Henry  under- 
took it.  He  went  down  under  the  water  at  the 
open  end  of  the  drift  and  made  his  way  along 
it,  but  very  slowly.  There  was  an  accumula- 
tion of  fine  coal  dust  in  the  drift,  and  his  move- 
ments stirred  this  up  ;  it  mixed  with  the  water 
and  so  got  into  the  air  valve  of  his  helmet, 
causing  serious  symptoms.  When  half-way 
along  he  felt  he  could  go  no  farther  and  signal- 
led to  be  drawn  up.  But  he  could  not  turn 
round,  and  so  as  the  men  above  pulled  on  the 
life-line  he  had  to  second  their  efforts  by  push- 
ing himself  backward,  which  he  continued  to 
do  till  he  got  into  the  open  water.  But  he 
would  not  give  in,  and  went  down  again  and 
again  till  he  succeeded,  though  he  had  to  be 
treated  by  the  doctor  after  one  of  his  journeys. 


A    TRAWL    NET. 

A  frame  of  adamant,  a  soul  of  fire, 

No  dangers  fright  him,  and  no  labours  tire. 

— Samuel  Johnson. 

THE  title  at  the  head  of  this  chapter  seems 
a  suitable  one  under  which  to  gather  a 
number  of  incidents  in  the  career  of  Mr.  Watts 
which  cannot  be  properly  placed  under  any  of 
the  headings  already  used,  and  yet  are  of  suf- 
ficient importance  to  be  recorded. 

Here,  for  instance,  is  a  letter  from  the  columns 
of  the  Sunderland  Daily  Echo  which  requires 
a  little  explanation.  It  is  headed  "  Sunderland 
Infirmary  :  a  Grateful  Patient,"  and  reads  : — 

Sir, — Allow  me  through  the  columns  of  your 
paper  to  return  my  heartfelt  thanks  to  the  Sisters 
and  Medical  Staff,  and  especially  to  Mr.  Ranson, 
the  House  Surgeon  of  the  Sunderland  Infirmary, 
in  which  institution  I  have  been  an  inmate  for  the 
last  five  months.  During  that  time  I  had  my  leg 
amputated,  owing  to  injury  sustained  by  my  being 
caught  in   a  coil  of  rope  while   mooring  my  vessel 

A   TRAWL    NET  211 

at  the  Wearmouth  Drops.  I  must  say  during-  the 
time  I  was  in  the  Infirmary  that  I  received  the  ut- 
most attention  and  greatest  kindness.  I  could  not 
have  had  more  at  my  own  home.  I  also  take  this 
opportunity  of  publicly  thanking  Mr.  Henry  Watts, 
diver,  and  his  son,  and  all  other  persons  who  have 
kindly  assisted  me. 

Yours  truly, 

Alex.   Mather, 
Late  Master  of  "  Hay  &  Catherine," 

of  Arbroath. 
5,  St.  Vigeans  Road, 

Arbroath,  Nov.  29th,  1877. 

The  above  does  not  do  justice  to  Mr.  Watts  s 
share  in  the  matter.  A  short  newspaper  report 
states  that  on  June  26th,  1877,  while  the  "  Bon 
Accord,"  steam  tug,  was  going  up  the  river  her 
keel  came  in  contact  with  a  rope  attached  to  the 
schooner  "  Hay  and  Catherine,"  lying  at  Wear- 
mouth  Drops.  The  master  of  the  schooner, 
Alex.  Mather,  was  standing  close  to  the  rope 
on  his  vessel,  and  he  was  caught  up  by  it  and 
dragged  to  the  ship's  side,  where  his  left  foot 
was  pulled  almost  completely  off,  dangling  only 
from  his  mangled  leg  by  a  narrow  piece  of  skin. 
Mr.  Henry  Watts,  who  was  near  the  Lambton 
Drops  preparing  to  dive,  heard  the  shouts  for 

212      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

help,  and  he  and  his  son  at  once  jumped  into 
their  boat  and  boarded  the  schooner.  They 
freed  Mr.  Mather  from  the  rope,  rendered  first 
aid  to  him,  and  Henry  hailed  the  tug,  took  him 
ashore  in  her,  and  then  sent  for  a  cab  and  took 
him  to  the  Infirmary.  The  patient,  as  stated 
in  his  letter,  was  in  the  Infirmary  several 
months,  and,  his  wife  not  being  in  a  position 
to  come  to  him,  Henry  acted  the  part  of  the 
Good  Samaritan  during  that  time,  and  finally, 
on  his  recovery,  promoted  a  subscription  among 
some  Scottish  captains  and  sent  him  home  to 

It  would  be  difficult  to  find  a  better  instance 
of  pluck  and  determination  than  the  following  : — 
Henry  was  in  a  boat  in  the  river  preparing  to 
run  a  rope  out,  when  the  ship's  anchor  fell, 
smashing  the  boat,  breaking  his  leg  and  throw- 
ing him  into  the  river.  In  spite  of  his  serious 
and  painful  injury  he  actually  swam  ashore  to  a 
boat  slip,  up  which  he  crawled  a  little  way,  and 
from  there  was  conveyed  in  a  cab  to  Dr.  Ward's, 
in  Church  Street. 

Early  on  the  morning  of  June  7th,  1870,  a 
pleasure  party  of  eleven  persons,   three   adults 

A   TRAWL    NET  213 

and  eight  children,  went  up  the  river  in  a  gig 
for  the  purpose  of  spending  the  day  in  the 
higher  reaches  of  the  river.  The  Sunderland 
Weekly  Times  of  June  7th,  1870,  from  which 
the  facts  of  the  case  are  taken,  states  that  "A 
gig  called  the  '  White  Lily '  put  off  from  the 
Low  Quay.  .  .  .  On  board  of  her  were 
Mr.  Friend  Lamb,  boat  builder,  his  wife  and  five 
children,  the  ages  of  the  children  varying  from 
two  years  up  to  ten  ;  and  Mr.  Hartley  French, 
cashier  to  Mr.  Lamb,  who  also  had  three  of  his 
children  along  with  him."  The  boat  had  got 
opposite  Burdes's  Lime  Kilns,  when  the  steam 
tug  "Wansbeck"  came  down  the  river.  As 
she  passed  the  boat  her  paddle  caught  it  or 
one  of  the  oars,  the  boat  being  capsized  and 
the  whole  of  the  party  thrown  into  the  river. 
Mr.  Watts  was  making  his  way  up  the  river  to 
dive  when  the  accident  occurred,  and  he  im- 
mediately went  to  the  assistance  of  those  strug- 
gling in  the  water,  and,  along  with  other  willing 
helpers,  succeeded  in  saving  the  whole  of  them. 
When  the  party  was  first  got  on  board  the  steam 
tug  it  was  found  that  two  of  the  children  were 
missing.      Henry  suspected  that  they  were  still 

2i4       LIFE    OF  HARRY  WATTS 

in  the  boat,  which  was  floating  on  the  water 
bottom  upwards.  He  made  all  haste  to  the 
boat,  managed  to  right  her,  and  there  sure 
enough  were  the  two  little  ones,  who  were 
soon  restored  to  their  friends.  Henry  claims  to 
have  saved  but  one  of  the  party,  but  as  a  matter 
of  fact  he  helped  to  save  the  majority  of  them. 

He  got  the  whole  of  the  party  ashore  and  did 
not  leave  them  till  he  had  seen  them  safely  off 
home.  Then  he  returned  to  the  keel  in  which 
he  was  working  and  said  to  the  young  fellow  in 
her  (a  man  named  Robert  Wilson),  "  Hurry  up, 
now,  and  get  into  the  boat,  we  shall  have  to 
make  up  for  lost  time." 

Whether  it  was  the  desire  to  hurry  or  simply 
a  matter  of  awkwardness  is  not  known,  but  at 
any  rate  Wilson  fell  overboard  into  24  feet  of 
water  and  would  certainly  have  been  drowned 
had  not  Henry  jumped  in  and  saved  him.  The 
rescue  is  reported  in  a  local  paper  as  follows  : — 

"  Narrow  Escape  from  Drowning.  —  This 
morning  about  nine  o'clock,  a  man  named  Robert 
Wilson  fell  out  of  a  boat  at  Lambton  Drops.  Mr. 
Henry  Watts,  who  has  during  his  lifetime  rescued 
26  persons  from  drowning,  and  was  engaged  in  the 

A   TRAWL   NET  215 

same  noble  way  at  the  boat  accident  this  morning 
[the  accident  referred  to  above],  at  once  went  to  the 
aid  of  his  companion,  and  succeeded  in  landing  him 
without  much  harm  being  done." 

And  here  is  a  letter  from  the  person  res- 
cued : — 


Sept.  9th,  1875. 
Dear  Sir, — I  feel  it  my  duty  to  express  my  grati- 
tude to  our  respected  townsman,  Mr.  Harry- 
Watts,  for  the  heroic  manner  in  which  he  saved 
me  from  drowning  on  the  7th  June,  1870,  while 
employed  on  the  River  Wear  near  Hetton  Drops, 
when  I  accidentally  fell  overboard  in  about  24  feet  of 
water.  Mr.  Watts  sprang  from  a  vessel  lying  near 
into  the  water  and  rescued  me  from  my  perilous 
position.  I  declare  this  to  be  a  true  statement. 
Robert  Wilson, 

16,  Addison  Street,  Hendon. 

We  have  already  seen  how  ardent  an  advo- 
cate of  temperance  Henry  became  after  his 
conversion,  and  the  following  incident  will  show 
how  ready  he  was  to  put  his  principles  into 
practice.  On  Nov.  4th,  1873,  ne  nad  been 
diving  at  South  Hylton,  and  when  his  work 
was  finished  he  went   across  the  river  to   see 

216     LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

Squire  Ettrick  about  the  removal  of  some  stones. 
While  they  were  talking  near  the  North  Ferry- 
landing,  a  valuable  horse,  with  dray  attached, 
belonging  to  Messrs.  Ridley  &  Cletter,  brewers, 
Newcastle,  accidently  fell  off  the  ferry  into  the 
river,  dragging  the  dray  laden  with  casks  of  ale 
with  it,  and  was  being  washed  up  the  river  by 
the  strong  current. 

Squire  Ettrick  on  seeing  the  accident  turned 
to  Henry  and  said,  "  Oh,  dear  me,  diver,  that's 
a  bad  accident.  That  horse  is  worth  a  hundred 
guineas,  and  I'd  give  a  great  deal  to  have  it 

"Wey,  aw  think  aw  could  save't  reet  enuff, 
Squire,  on  conditions,"  said  Henry. 

11  What  conditions,  diver  ?  Be  quick  !  Be 
quick  ! 

<4  Aw'll  hetta  throw  th'  cargo  owerboard, 
that's  the  first  condition." 

To  this  the  Squire  agreed,  and  plucking  off 
some  of  his  clothing,  Henry  plunged  into  the 
river,  reached  the  dray,  tumbled  the  barrels  of 
liquor  into  the  river,  loosened  part  of  the  horse's 
harness  and  then  mounted  its  back.  But  now, 
never  having  driven   a  horse  in  his  life,  much 

'when  aw  got  ontiv  its  back  aw  find  mesel  in  a  fix. 

A    TRAWL   NET  217 

less  mounted  one,  he  found  himself  in  a  quan- 

"  When  aw  got  ontiv  its  back,"  he  said,  "aw 
fund  mesel  in  a  fix.  Aw  didn't  knaw  which 
rein  ti  pull,  an'  ef  aw  shouted  4  Away  ! '  or  '  Gee 
whoa  !'  aw  didn't  knaw  which  way  th'  beast  wad 
gan.  Well,  aw  jist  had  ti  larn  how  ti  steer  him. 
Aw  pulled  yan  rein  a  wee  bit  and  seed  which 
way  he  went,  and  then  pulled  t'  other  yan,  an' 
so  aw  steered  him  ashore." 

The  Squire  was  delighted  and  Henry  got  ^5 
for  his  services  ;  but  he  still  regrets  that  he  did 
not  knock  the  bungs  out  of  the  barrels  before 
jettisoning  them  ;  for  they  washed  ashore,  and 
he  heard  that  there  was  a  great  deal  of  free 
drinking  in  the  neighbourhood  of  Hylton  as  a 

Here  is  Squire  Ettrick's  account  of  the  in- 
cident : — 

This  is  to  certify  that  Mr.  Henry  Watts,  of  14, 
Sans  Street,  Sunderland,  saved  a  valuable  horse, 
November  4th,  1873,  belonging  to  Messrs.  Ridley 
and  Cletter,  brewers  and  wine  merchants,  New- 
castle. The  horse  slipped  over  the  end  of  the  boat 
at  Hylton   Ferry  with  a  dray  laden  with  casks  of 

218      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

ale.  Mr.  Henry  Watts  went  into  the  water  up  to 
his  neck,  threw  off  all  the  casks  into  the  river,  and 
then  got  the  horse's  harness  undone  from  the  dray 
at  great  danger  to  his  life. 

Anthony  Ettrick,  J. P., 

North  Hylton,  7th  Sept.,  1875. 

On  one  occasion  both  Mr.  Watts  and  his  son 
narrowly  escaped  death  while  engaged  in  diving 
operations.  There  were  six  of  them  on  No.  2 
Crane  Float,  belonging  to  the  River  Wear 
Commissioners,  Mr.  Watts  as  diver,  his  son 
and  a  cousin  named  Lonsdale,  with  three  other 
men,  and  they  were  at  work  near  the  old  South 
Pier,  right  opposite  the  North  Dock,  lifting 
stones.  Henry  was  under  the  water  and  his  son 
was  attending  to  him,  when  the  latter  looking  up, 
saw  a  steamer  coming  out  of  the  North  Dock. 
He  soon  saw  that  something  was  wrong  with 
the  steamer.  They  tried  to  put  her  helm  to 
starboard  so  as  to  turn  her  head  towards  the 
river  entrance,  but  she  would  not  answer  her 
helm.  It  was  found  afterwards  that  the  rudder- 
chains  had  jammed  in  the  cleats,  a  shackle  they 
had  put  on  being  too  big  to  go  through. 

The  steamer  therefore  came  right  across  the 

A   TRAWL    NET  219 

river  and  was  heading  straight  for  the  crane 
float.  Tom  Watts  saw  what  was  going  to 
happen,  and  hurriedly  pulled  his  father  to  the 
surface,  but  as  soon  as  the  diver's  head  was  out 
of  the  water  of  course  he  had  to  get  into  the  float 
himself,  the  weight  being  far  too  heavy  for  the 
son  to  pull  in.  The  steamer  struck  the  crane 
float  and  knocked  a  huge  hole  in  her,  but  by  that 
time  the  son  had  got  his  father's  helmet  off,  and 
he  at  once  dragged  him  aft  and  put  him  into 
their  boat  which  was  in  attendance,  sending  the 
other  men  in  with  him.  As  he  was  about  to 
get  into  the  boat  himself  he  saw  Lonsdale 
coming  up  out  of  the  cabin. 

"  What  are  you  doing  here,  man  ? "  he  asked, 
"you  should  be  in  the  boat.  Pick  up  some- 
thing quick  and  jump  overboard  ;  the  keel  is 
sinking  ! "  and  even  while  he  spoke  down  she 
went,  bow  first,  the  stern  rising  high  in  the  air 
as  she  went  under. 

Young  Tom  Watts  jumped  overboard,  and 
being  as  much  at  home  in  the  water  as  a  duck, 
he  soon  came  to  the  surface  and  looked  about 
him.  He  saw  Lonsdale  clambering  among  the 
wreckage,   and  as  he   was   sinking  and  unable 

220       LIFE   OF    HARRY  WATTS 

to  help  himself,  Tom  swam  to  his  relief.  But 
no  sooner  had  the  young  fellow  got  alongside 
him  than  Lonsdale,  in  a  panic,  flung  both  arms 
round  his  neck,  and  the  suction  from  the  sinking 
keel  drew  them  both  down. 

Presently  they  came  to  the  surface  again,  but 
Lonsdale  had  such  a  grip  of  his  rescuer  that  the 
latter  could  not  get  clear  of  him  and  was  per- 
fectly helpless.  He  heard  his  father  shout  to 
the  men  in  the  boat,  "  My  God  !  My  lad's  going 
to  be  drowned  !     Pull  for  your  lives  !  " 

The  men  did  pull,  and  Henry,  who,  with  his 
diving  gear  still  on,  had  jumped  into  the  bows 
of  the  boat,  was  just  in  time  to  reach  over  and 
catch  the  two  men  as  they  were  sinking  again. 
He  pulled  them  into  the  boat,  but  so  great  was 
the  strain  that  his  wrist  was  severely  injured. 
Lonsdale,  poor  fellow,  received  such  a  shock 
that  he  died  a  few  weeks  afterwards  from  the 
effects  of  it. 

When  that  terrible  calamity  the  Victoria  Hall 
disaster  happened  on  June  1 6th,  1883,  when  183 
little  children  were  suffocated  or  crushed  to 
death,  the  door  of  the  staircase  leading  from 
the    gallery    having  jammed,    Mr.   Watts    was 

A   TRAWL    NET  221 

among  the  foremost  of  the  helpers.  One  local 
paper  commenting  on  the  rescuing  of  the  bodies 
says,  "  One  man  worked  splendidly,  and  too 
much  praise  cannot  be  given  to  him.  I  think 
it  was  Mr.  Watts.  When  others  were  excited 
and  did  nothing  but  wring  their  hands  and  cry 
out,  he  was  cool  and  collected  and  rendered 
immense  assistance." 

A  stray  leaf  from  a  pamphlet  embodying  part 
of  the  report  of  the  annual  meeting  of  local 
preachers,  at  which  the  then  Mayor  (Mr.  J.  W. 
Wayman),  presided,  contains  a  flattering  refer- 
ence to  Mr.  Watts.  The  meeting  had  evidently 
been  held  just  after  the  disaster,  and  the  Mayor 
in  referring  to  it  said,  "  I  want  to  pay  a  tribute 
to  one  of  your  own  members,  I  refer  to  my 
friend  Henry  Watts.  I  saw  him  lay  hold  of 
those  little  corpses  one  by  one  and  move  them 
with  as  soft  a  hand  as  a  mother  would.  I  do 
not  hesitate  to  say  here  that  he  is  a  hero." 

But  that  calamity  is  too  sad  to  dwell  upon 
even  after  so  great  a  lapse  of  time.  Let  us 
turn  to  a  service  of  a  very  different  character 
which  Mr.  Watts  rendered  to  the  town. 

In  the  Museum  in  Borough   Road  is  a  Pre- 

222       LIFE    OF    HARRY  WATTS 

historic  Canoe,  found  in  the  bed  of  the  River 
Wear  by  Mr.  Watts  when  engaged  in  diving 
operations.  The  account  of  it  given  in  the 
19 10  Spring  issue  of  the  Sunderland  Public 
Library  Circular,  is  as  follows  : — 

"This  is  one  of  the  most  important  additions 
ever  made  to  the  antiquities  department  of  the 
Museum.  This  ancient  dug-out  canoe  was  found 
in  the  bed  of  the  River  Wear  at  Hylton,  near  Sun- 
derland, about  25  years  ago,  and  was  recently  pre- 
sented to  the  Corporation  by  the  River  Wear  Com- 
missioners. As  may  be  seen,  it  was  hewn  out  of 
an  oak  tree  trunk  ;  it  is  upwards  of  2,000  years 
old,  and  may  even  date  back  to  the  stone  age.  It 
may,  indeed,  be  claimed  to  be  Sunderland's  earliest 
boat,  and  the  forerunner  of  the  many  noble  vessels 
which  have  for  centuries  been  launched  on  the  Wear, 
and  have  made  Sunderland's  reputation  as  the 
largest  shipbuilding  town  in  the  world. 

"The  details  of  its  discovery  are  as  follows: — 
It  was  discovered  by  Mr.  Harry  Watts,  the  well- 
known  Sunderland  diver  and  life-saver,  when  em- 
ployed by  the  Commissioners  to  remove  the  '  Brix- 
ons,'  large  stones  forming  the  remains  of  a  bridge 
which  spanned  the  river  at  Hylton.  The  canoe  lay 
at  the  river  bottom,  covered  with  alluvial  mud  and 
shingle,  and  contained  human  bones,  which,  unfor- 
tunately, were  not  secured.     Its  size  is  about  eleven 

A   TRAWL   NET  223 

feet  long  by  two  feet  broad,  by  one  and  a  half  feet 
deep.  Stone  implements  shaped  like  chisels  were 
also  found  in  the  bed  of  the  stream  near  the  same 
spot,  together  with  deer  horns,  relics  of  the  times 
when  ancient  Britons,  clad  in  skins,  and  armed 
with  stone  axes,  hunted  the  red  deer  in  the  prim- 
eval forests  of  the  county  of  Durham.  Proof  of 
the  existence  of  such  forests  in  times  of  yore  is  not 
wanting,  in  the  shape  of  huge  trees  found  water- 
logged in  the  bed  of  the  stream  ;  and  it  was  doubt- 
less from  the  trunk  of  a  similar  giant  of  the  forest 
that  the  canoe  itself  was  made,  probably  carved 
out  by  stone  axes,  assisted  by  fire." 



Man  the  Life-boat  !     Man  the  Life-boat ! 

Listen  to  the  tempest's  roar ! 
Man  the  Life-boat!     Man  the  Life-boat! 

Hark!  Hark!     A  ship  ashore! — Old  Song. 

IT  is  probable  that  if  a  true  and  detailed  ac- 
count of  the  local  Life-boat  services  were 
written,  the  name  of  Henry  Watts  would  be 
found  on  almost  every  page  of  that  history  from 
about  the  year  1850.  What  Mr.  Samuel  Storey 
had  said  in  1877,  when  presenting  him  with  the 
medal  from  the  sailors  of  the  town,  was  no  ex- 
aggeration :  "  There  never  was  any  occasion  of 
shipwreck,  or  of  any  disaster,  but  at  which  he 
had  been  found  perfectly  willing  to  suffer  all  the 
trouble  and  danger  necessary  in  order  to  do  good 
on  these  occasions." 

Not  only  was  he  a  prominent  figure  in  the 
work  of  the  Life-boat,  but  he  has  been  con- 
nected with  the  Volunteer  Life  Brigade  since 
its  formation.      In  the   Annual   Report  of  that 


Society  for  1909-10  there  appears  in  the  list  of 
Committee  and  Officers  the  names  of  two  "  Hon. 
Life  Members,  by  special  vote  and  without  sub- 
scription ;"  the  first  being  Mr.  Henry  Watts, 
Sunderland  ;  and  the  second  Commander  C.  F. 
W.  Johnson,  R.N. 

Mr.  Watts  being  so  closely  associated  with 
the  local  Life-boat  service,  a  short  account 
of  the  origin  and  development  of  that  service 
may  be  appropriately  introduced  here  before 
touching  upon  the  particular  instances  in  which 
Mr.  Watts  took  part ;  and  the  more  so  that  I 
have  been  favoured  with  the  loan  of  some  an- 
cient and  original  documents  dealing  with  the 
subject  from  a  local  point  of  view  ;  and  am  per- 
mitted to  quote  from  a  work  published  by  the 
highest  authority  on  the  subject.  These  ex- 
tracts and  documents  taken  together  may  be 
considered  as  an  authoritative  and  valuable  re- 
ference ;  they  will  set  at  rest  many  doubts  ;  and 
will,  the  local  secretary  assures  me,  render  a  dis- 
tinct service  to  the  cause  in  Sunderland.  We 
will  deal  with  the  general  subject  first. 

By  the  kind  permission  of  the  author  and 
publishers  I  am  permitted  to  quote  from  The 

226       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

Life-Boat  and  its  Work,  by  Sir  J.  C.  Lamb, 
Deputy  Chairman  of  the  Royal  National  Life- 
boat Institution,  a  work  just  published  by  the 
Institution,  price  i/-,  to  which  excellent  little 
book  the  reader  is  referred  for  details  of  the 
service,  illustrations,  &c,  which  cannot  be  given 

"It  is  impossible,"  says  the  author,  "to  as- 
sign to  any  one  person  the  merit  of  inventing 
the  Life-boat. 

"  Lionel  Lukin,  with  his  plans  for  increasing 
the  buoyancy  and  stability  of  boats,  was  first  in 
the  field  in  this  country.  ...  A  coach 
builder  in  Long  Acre,  he  was  a  very  worthy 
member  of  the  Worshipful  Company  of  Coach- 
makers,  of  which  he  became  Master  in  1793." 
It  appears  that,  having  purchased  a  Norway 
yawl  he  converted  her  into  what  he  called  an 
"  unimmergible  boat,"  tested  her  on  the  Thames 
and  took  out  a  patent.  The  patent  is  dated  2nd 
November,  1785. 

"At  about  the  same  time,  William  Would- 
have,  a  house-painter  in  South  Shields,  who 
taught  singing  in  the  charity  school,  and  event- 
ually became  parish  clerk,   a  versatile  and  ec- 


centric  genius,  was  trying  to  design  a  boat  which 
would  neither  sink  nor  remain  upset ;  but  his 
final  model  was  not  made  until  1789,  between 
three  and  four  years  after  the  date  of  Lukin's 

"A  third  claimant  to  the  invention  was  Henry 
Greathead,  also  of  South  Shields.  This  gentle- 
man received  ,£1,200  from  Parliament,  and  a 
gold  medal  and  fifty  guineas  from  the  Society 
of  Arts,  besides  other  rewards." 

Dealing  with  a  voluminous  correspondence 
on  the  merits  of  the  claimants,  the  author  says, 
"The  materials  now  available  are  perhaps 
scarcely  sufficient  for  an  unassailable  judgment ; 
but  what  emerges  from  the  conflicting  claims 
may  be  stated  thus  :  Lukin,  when  he  took  out 
his  patent,  had  not  thought  of  self-righting 
qualities,  and  did  not  propose  to  construct  a 
boat  to  be  specially  employed  in  saving  life  ; 
neither  did  he  propose  to  establish  a  Life-boat 
service.  His  aim  was  to  make  all  kinds  of 
boats  safe  and  buoyant.     .     ." 

"  Wouldhave,  unlike  Lukin,  thought  much  of 
build  and  design  .  .  .  and  he  intended  that 
his  boat  should  be  a  Life-boat  and  nothing  else. 

228       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

The  kind  of  seas  encountered  at 
the  mouth  of  the  Tyne  made  it  important  that  a 
boat  stationed  there  should  have  self-righting 
qualities,  and  this  gave  direction  to  his  aims. 
A  firm  of  brewers  allowed  him  to  test  his 
models  in  their  tanks,  but  it  was  an  accident 
which  suggested  the  solution  of  the  problem. 
In  a  ramble,  early  in  1789,  he  happened  to  see 
a  woman  who  had  just  been  drawing  water  from 
a  well.  Her  skeel  was  full,  and  on  the  surface 
of  the  water  there  floated  the  half  of  a  circular 
wooden  dish.  While  he  chatted  with  her  before 
helping  to  lift  the  skeel  to  her  head,  he  tried  to 
make  the  wooden  fragment  turn  over,  but  at  his 
every  attempt  it  righted,  and  would  not  remain 
upside  down.  Woodhave  .  .  .  went  off 
to  continue  his  experiments  at  the  brewery. 
Presently  he  ran  into  the  office  of  the  firm, 
saying  that  he  had  discovered  the  principle  he 
was  looking*  for. 

"Soon  afterwards  an  advertisement  appeared 
in  the  Newcastle  Courant  offering  a  premium 
of  two  guineas  for  a  plan  or  model  of  a  boat 
capable  of  living  in  the  stormy  seas  at  the  mouth 
of  the  Tyne.     Wouldhave  was  ready,  and  sub- 


mitted  his  model,  which  is  preserved  in  the 
Public  Museum  at  South  Shields. 

"  A  careful  consideration  of  the  facts  will,  I 
think,  lead  to  the  conclusion  that  Wouldhave 
was  the  father  of  the  self-righting  Life-boat,  and 
Lukin  of  the  staunch  non-self-righting  sailing 

11  How,  then,  did  Greathead's  name  become 
associated  with  the  Life-boat  ?  The  answer  is, 
that  he  was  a  skilled  boatbuilder,  accustomed  to 
the  sea  as  a  ship  carpenter  and  mate,  and  he 
was  employed  to  build  the  Life-boat." 

The  author  deals  with  this  part  of  the  subject 
exhaustively,  and  shows  that  the  only  part  that 
Greathead  had  in  the  design  of  the  boat  was  in 
suggesting  that  its  keel  should  be  curved  or 
"rockered,"  which  was  adopted.  The  com- 
mittee which  had  to  adjudicate  upon  the  models 
and  plans  was  not  satisfied  with  any  of  them, 
but  thought  enough  of  Wouldhave's  model  to 
award  him  half  the  premium — which  he  refused, 
but  left  them  his  model.  Two  members  of  the 
committee  then  utilised  the  ideas  of  the  different 
models  and  plans,  constructed  a  model  of  clay, 
and  it  was  from  this  that  Greathead  built  the 

23o      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

first  Life-boat.  He  built  the  second  Life-boat 
in  1798,  and  before  the  end  of  1803  nad  built 
31  boats. 

Between  the  North  and  South  Marine  Parks 
at  South  Shields,  is  a  monument  to  the  memory 
of  Wouldhave  and  Greathead,  and  close  by, 
under  a  shed,  stands  the  superannuated  Life- 
boat "  Tyne,"  built  in  1833  to  replace  the  first 
Life-boat.  She  was  reconstructed  in  1845,  and 
was  withdrawn  from  service  in  1887.  She  had 
saved  1,024  lives. 

M  The  National  Institution  for  the  Preserva- 
tion of  Life  from  Shipwreck,"  now  known  as  the 
11  Royal  National  Life-boat  Institution,"  was 
established  in  1824. 

Having  given  this  short  outline  of  the  origin 
of  the  Life-boat,  we  may  now  turn  to  Sunder- 
land's connection  with  the  service. 

In  reply  to  a  request  for  information  as  to 
the  establishment  of  the  Life-boat  service  at 
Sunderland,  the  secretary  of  the  Royal  National 
Life-boat  Institution  says  : — "  A  Life-boat  was 
first  stationed  at  Sunderland  in  April,  1865,  and 
was  named  'The  Florence  Nightingale." 

But  while  that  is  true  as  far  as  the  National 


Institution  is  concerned,  it  does  not  by  any 
means  represent  the  beginning  of  the  Life-boat 
service  at  this  port. 

Mr.  W.  J.  Oliver,  the  local  secretary  of  the 
Royal  National  Life-boat  Institution,  and  the 
secretary  of  the  Sunderland  Volunteer  Life 
Brigade,  has  kindly  lent  me  some  old  docu- 
ments which  came  into  his  possession  many 
years  ago,  and  from  these  it  is  possible  to  con- 
struct a  short  history  of  the  Life-boat  service 
at  Sunderland.  Among  these  old  documents 
are  four  balance  sheets.  No.  1  is  headed,  "  A 
brief  statement  of  receipts  and  expenditure  of 
the  Life-boat  Fund,  from  its  commencement  up 
to  181 1."  It  begins  with  1800,  and  shows  "Up 
to  May,  1800,  Voluntary  Contributions,  £zil 
14s.  4d." 

Rewards  to  '  Ajax'  - 

Cost  of  boat  and  carriage 


Balance  - 

;6I85    14 


185      O 


3     3 


0   15 


£377   H 


In   1802  there  was  sufficient  money  in  hand 

232       LIFE    OF   HARRY  WATTS 

to  lend  the  Library  ^200,*  which  brought  in 
^ioa  year  till  1.8 10,  when  the  principal  began  to 
be  paid  off.  In  1808  an  item  is  shown  as  "New 
Boat,  ,£106";  and  the  "rewards"  gradually 
rise  from  £1  7s.  6d.  in  1803,  when  they  are 
first  mentioned,  to  £4.3  15s.  2d.  in  18 10, 
the  point  of  which  observation  will  be  seen 

No.  2  balance  sheet  is  for  one  year  only,  and 
is  not  by  any  means  so  encouraging  a  statement 
as  the  previous  one.  It  is  from  May,  181 1,  to 
May,  1812.  It  begins  with  a  balance  in  hand 
of  £92  6s.  /d.,  shows  £50  of  the  principal 
money  repaid  by  the  Library  Trustees,  and 
^150  borrowed  on  account  of  the  balance,  and 
yet  finishes  with  a  balance  due  to  the  treasurer 
of  £27  12s.  3d.  During  this  year  ^150  had 
been  paid  for  alterations  to  the  second  boat 
(they  are  called  "  the  large  boat  "  and  u  the 
small  boat  "),  but  the  biggest  item  in  the  year's 
accounts  is  "  rewards,"  which  has  jumped  up 
to  ^218  lis.  od.  The  first  two  items  on  the 
credit  side  of  this  balance  sheet  are  worth 
mentioning  : — 

*  This  was,  of  course,  the  Subscription  Library. 


Oct.  19th.    Thos.  Oliver,  who  had 

his  leg   broken       -  £9     o     o 
Mr.  Gregson,  surgeon, 

attending  Oliver     -^11      6     6 

The  third  balance  sheet  deals  with  six  years, 
18 1 2-1 8  ;  and  the  fourth,  which  appears  to  be 
the  last  issued,  is  from  May,  18 18,  to  Jan.  9th, 
1 8 1 9.  Only  two  items  from  this  account  need  be 
mentioned  ;  the  "  rewards "  have  dropped  to 
£%  3s.  6d.  ;  and  there  is  an  item  on  Feb.  5th, 
181 8,  of  "printing  address,  18/-."  Fortunately 
a  copy  of  this  address  has  been  preserved  with 
the  balance  sheets  and  some  other  old  papers, 
and  it  is  of  sufficient  interest  and  importance  to 
be  given  in  full.  It  was  printed  by  G.  Garbutt, 
Sunderland,  in  Jan.  18 18,  and  explains  the  rise 
and  fall  of  the  "  rewards  "  : — 


An  Appeal  to  the  Sailors,  Keelmen,  Coblemen,  &C, 
of  the  Port  of  Sunderland. 

The  inhabitants  of  this  town  and  neighbourhood 
a  few  years  ago,  lamenting  the  frequent  loss  of  so 
many  valuable  lives  by  Shipwreck  near  this  Port, 
without  having  any  means  of  attempting  to  save 
them,  humanely  entered  into  a  subscription  to  pro- 

234     LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

vide  a  Life-boat,  under  the  management  of  a  Com- 
mittee, never  doubting  that  numbers  of  brave  water- 
men, such  as  sailors,  keelmen,  coblemen,  and 
others,  would  be  ready  to  volunteer  their  services 
in  manning  it  for  the  rescue  of  their  fellow-creatures 
from  an  awful  and  untimely  death. 

The  shipowners  have  since  that  time  provided  a 
small  fund,  at  the  discretion  of  the  Committee  to 
keep  the  boat  in  repair,  and  to  give  a  small  recom- 
pence  to  such  brave  men  as  might  venture  on  those 
praiseworthy  occasions,  and  which  they  wish  still 
to  do.  From  this  fund,  with  the  assistance  of  the 
Commissioners  of  the  Port,  there  have  been  two 
boats  added,  at  a  very  considerable  expense,  and 
upon  an  improved  plan,  so  as  to  afford  the  greatest 
confidence  in  them.  But  the  Committee  and  every 
friend  of  humanity  have  now  to  regret,  that  all  the 
kindness  and  regard  of  the  inhabitants  and  ship- 
owners are  likely  to  become  ineffectual,  from  the 
avarice  of  those  men,  to  whom  their  suffering  fel- 
low-creatures look  up,  to  put  in  practice  the  only 
means  of  snatching  them  from  impending  death. 

To  gain  money  appears  now  to  be  the  principal 
object  of  those  who  offer  themselves  to  save  the 
shipwrecked  mariner,  not  only  in  going  off  in  the 
boats,  but  those  who  assist  to  launch  them  into  the 
sea.  You  mothers  who  might  become  widows — 
you  children  who  might  become  fatherless — you 
fathers  and  mothers  who  might  become  childless — 
and  you  who  might  lose  your  near  and  dear  friends, 


from  the  avarice  or  want  of  humanity  in  those  men 
— what  would  you  say  of  them  ? — You  would  no 
doubt  for  ever  reproach  them  for  their  want  of  fel- 
low feeling. 

Such  individuals  ought  to  consider,  that  by  their 
exertions  on  those  occasions  they  are  not  serving 
the  committee,  the  shipowners,  or  the  inhabitants, 
except  by  raising  in  them  feelings  of  gratitude  at 
their  praise-worthy  endeavours  ;  but  that  they  are 
then  serving  the  sufferers,  and  their  friends  and  re- 
latives, together  with  the  cause  of  humanity,  for 
which  their  own  feelings  must  or  ought  to  be  a 

The  boats  are  provided,  and  every  necessary  con- 
venience, the  rest  depends  on  the  manly  exertions 
of  those  who  are  able  and  who  are  conversant  in 
their  management.  But  it  ought  to  be  made  known 
generally,  that  there  is  no  fund  equal  to  the  exor- 
bitant demands  which  have  been  made,  for  it  is  now 
nearly  exhausted  ;  and  that  if  such  a  practice  be 
continued  the  boats  will  become  useless,  and  many 
poor  sufferers  must  perish. 

By  Order  of  the  Committee. 
Sunderland,  January  17th,  1818. 

On  the  face  of  it  this  extraordinary  document 
shows  the  sailors  and  fishermen  of  the  port  in 
anything  but  a  favourable  light.  But  there  is 
another  side  to  the  question.      Let  the  reader 

236       LIFE   OF   HARRY  WATTS 

turn  once  more  to  chapter  two,  and  consider  the 
terrible  struggle  for  existence  which  the  poor 
people  of  the  town  had  to  contend  with  at  the 
time  this  appeal  was  issued,  and  he  will  cease 
to  wonder  that  they  asked  to  be  paid  for  their 
services.  It  was  not  that  they  were  less  willing 
than  those  of  their  class,  either  before  their 
time  or  since,  to  risk  their  lives  in  the  endea- 
vour to  save  others,  but,  speaking  generally, 
they  were  in  the  grip  of  bitter  poverty,  and 
were  fain  to  earn  an  honest  shilling  whenever 
opportunity  offered.  The  "Appeal"  is  a  pre- 
judiced statement,  and  ignores  the  main  factor 
in  the  case — the  wretched  poverty  of  those  it 

What  has  been  said  goes  to  prove  conclusively 
that  the  Life-boat  was  in  use  in  Sunderland 
from  1800,  but  even  that  date  is  not  the  earliest 
at  which  an  organisation  existed  for  the  saving 
of  life  in  the  case  of  shipwreck.  In  Mr.  Oliver's 
possession  is  a  well-made  oaken  box,  17  ins. 
long,  by  nJ/£  ins.  wide,  by  8  ins.  deep,  with  a 
brass  tablet  let  into  the  top  of  it  inscribed, 
"Sunderland  Humane  Society,  1791."  The 
inside  of  the  box  is  marked  off  into  small  com- 


partments,  showing  that  it  was  used  as  a  medi- 
cine chest.  It  was  taken  over  by  Mr.  Oliver 
from  the  old  Life  Brigade  house. 

Among  the  old  papers  already  mentioned  is 
a  photograph  of  a  boat,  on  the  back  of  which  is 
written,  "Sunderland's  First  Life-boat,  181 1." 
The  boat  shown  on  the  photograph  is  very 
different  from  the  modern  Life-boat.  It  is  more 
like  what  is  called,  in  the  Royal  Navy,  a  whale 
boat  as  to  size  and  general  outline,  though 
different  in  construction.  It  is  a  ten-oared  boat 
(two  men  on  a  thwart),  and  is  clinker  built. 
There  is  no  rudder,  but  a  thole  pin  is  shown  at 
each  end  for  steering  with  an  oar.  There  are 
thole  pins  for  the  oars,  too,  instead  of  rowlocks, 
and  bow  and  stern  are  shaped  alike.  The  word 
"  Sunderland"  appears  on  one  end  of  the  boat, 
and  near  it  a  plate  is  affixed,  on  which,  with  the 
aid  of  a  magnifying  glass,  can  be  made  out  the 
words  "  Life-boat  Committee,"  and  underneath 
"Morgan  Wake,"*  but  the  rest  of  the  inscription 
is  undecipherable.  At  the  other  end  are  the 
words,   "Life-boat  No.    1,"  and  this   no   doubt 

*  Mr.  Morgan  Wake  was  the  builder  of  the  boat,  and  on  the 
photograph  he  is  shown  sitting  near  to  it. 

238      LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

led  the  original  owner  of  the  photograph  to 
consider  it  a  picture  of  Sunderland's  first  Life- 
boat. But  the  number,  I  believe,  is  intended 
only  to  distinguish  it  from  Life-boat  No.  2,  for 
the  old  balance  sheets  show  clearly  enough  that 
there  were  two  Life-boats  here  as  early  as  1808, 
one  being  bought  in  1800  at  a  cost  of  ^185,  and 
the  other  in  1808  at  a  cost  of  ^106.  But  the 
photograph  cannot  be  the  picture  of  either  of 
these  two  boats,  for  the  simple  but  sufficient 
reason  that  photography  was  unknown  at  that 
period,  and  did  not  become  a  commercial  possi- 
bility till  about  1840.  As  a  matter  of  historical 
fact  Daguerre  only  commenced  his  experiments 
in  1824  ;  and  Fox  published  his  invention  of 
the  negative  photographic  process  (which  made 
such  a  photograph  as  the  one  under  consider- 
ation possible)  in  1839.  And  if  the  boat  were 
built  in  181 1,  she  could  not,  thirty  or  thirty-five 
years  afterwards,  have  been  in  the  excellent  con- 
dition the  picture  shows  her  to  be.  It  is 
obvious,  therefore,  that  this  is  not  a  picture  of 
Sunderland's  first  Life-boat. 

To   return   to   our   history.      In   spite  of  the 
statements  in  the  "  Appeal,"  the  records  show 


that  there  was  no  interruption  of  the  Life-boat 
service  at  this  port. 

In  Mr.  Oliver's  possession  is  a  cutting  from 
the  Illustrated  London  News  (1858),  showing 
the  "  Arrival  of  a  new  Life-boat  at  Sunderland." 
The  boat  is  on  a  carriage  which  is  being  drawn 
by  four  horses,  and  a  large  concourse  of  people 
is  shown  watching  the  proceedings.  A  great 
banner  is  displayed  on  which  are  the  words 
"Presented  by  Miss  Burdett  Coutts,"  but  I  can 
find  no  further  record  of  this  boat. 

We  come  now  to  the  history  of  the  "Sunder- 
land Branch  of  the  Royal  National  Life-boat 
Institution,"  which  was  instituted  on  April  27th, 
1865.  This  Branch,  though  attached  to  the 
National  Institution,  was  worked  quite  inde- 
pendently of  it  for  some  years,  its  funds  being 
provided  by  the  local  shipowners  and  by  public 
subscription.  The  first  entry  in  the  minute 
book  reads  as  follows  : — 

"  April  27th,  1865. 

11  Sunderland  Life-boat,  'Florence  Nightingale.' 

u  At  a  preliminary  meeting  held  on  Thursday, 
April  27th,  1865,  in  Mr.  Anderson's  office,  Villiers 
Street,  at  which  Captain  Ward,    the   Inspector  of 

24o       LIFE    OF   HARRY  WATTS 

Life-boats,  attended,  Mr.  Thomas  Anderson,  Mer- 
chant, in  the  chair,  the  following  gentlemen  were 
appointed  as  a  local  committee  of  management,  to 
be  increased  if  required  : — Thomas  Anderson,  Esq., 
Chairman,  Messrs.  George  C.  Pecket,  Robert  Ord, 
Junr. ,  James  Horan,  John  Firth,  Edward  Dawson, 
Richard  Oliver,  and  William  Thompson,  Junr. 

"  Resolved  :  It  was  proposed  by  Mr.  Pecket  and 
seconded  by  Mr.  Ord,  that  Mr.  John  Lambton  be 
appointed  Hon.  Treasurer. 

"  Proposed  by  the  Chair  and  seconded  by  Mr. 
Horan  that  Capt.  Heard  be  appointed  Hon.  Secre- 
tary. Also  proposed  by  the  Chair  and  seconded  by 
Mr.  Ord  that  Mr.  G.  C.  Pecket,  Junr.,  be  ap- 
pointed  Assistant  Hon.  Secretary. 

"The  thanks  of  the  Committee  are  tendered  to 
the  Royal  National  Life-boat  Institution  for  the 
handsome  and  valuable  gift  of  the  '  Florence  Night- 
ingale,' and  also  to  Captain  Ward,  the  Inspector, 
for  his  kindness  in  exhibiting  the  boat's  powers  to 
the  public  of  Sunderland. 

"  Proposed  by  Mr.  Horan  and  seconded  by  Mr. 
Anderson  that  Captain  Heard,  Hon.  Secretary,  and 
Messrs.  Pecket  and  Ord  be  appointed  to  wait  on 
the  Dock  and  River  Commissioners  to  ask  them  to 
erect  a  building  for  the  Life-boat  '  Florence  Night- 
ingale '  as  soon  as  possible. 

"  Proposed  generally  that  the  Committee  meet  at 
the  end  of  each  quarter  to  audit  accounts  and  provide 


for  the  good  management  of  the  boat  ;   and   also 
on  any  special  occasions  as  required. 


Thomas  Anderson,  Chairman. 

The  next  meeting  was  held  on  May  2nd, 
1865,  when  William  Boys,  mariner  and  fisher- 
man, was  appointed  coxswain  of  the  boat,  "  at 
the  usual  sum  of  £%  per  annum,  to  be  paid 
quarterly  from  April  1st;  and  that  Joseph  Clarke 
be  appointed  second  coxswain." 

At  the  same  meeting  it  was  "  Unanimously 
agreed  that  the  thanks  of  the  meeting  be  given 
to  the  Mayor  and  inhabitants  of  the  town  and 
county  of  Derby  for  the  handsome  present  of 
the  ■  Florence  Nightingale'  Life-boat,  and  begs 
to  assure  them  that  the  hardy  seamen  of  this 
Port  will  be  ever  ready  to  render  a  good  account 
of  the  valuable  gift  whenever  their  services  may 
be  required  in  manning  her." 

A  few  extracts  taken  from  the  same  Minute 
Book  will  tell  the  subsequent  history  of  the  Life- 
boat service  in  Sunderland. 

April  18th,  1871,  "  At  a  meeting  of  the  joint 
Committees  of  the  R.N. L.I.  and  the  Sunderland 
Life-boat   Institution,  held  at  the  Commission 


242       LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

Rooms,  Exchange  Buildings,  George  Hudson, 
Esq.,  in  the  chair,  it  was  moved  by  Aid.  Reed, 
seconded  by  Mr.  Humble,  that  the  Life-boats 
and  all  other  property  belonging  to  the  Sunder- 
land Life-boat  Institution  be  now  handed  over 
to  the  Royal  National  Life-boat  Institution. 
Carried  unanimously. 

11  Moved  by  Mr.  Pecket,  seconded  by  Mr. 
Porrett,  that  the  boats  and  property  be  accepted 
by  the  local  Committee  on  behalf  of  the 
R.N.  L.I.     Carried. 

"  Moved  by  Mr.  Pecket,  seconded  by  Mr. 
Porrett,  that  the  two  Committees  be  amalga- 
mated.    Carried." 

Feb.  5th,  1872.  This  was  "  the  occasion  of 
the  launching  of  the  new  Life-boat  presented  to 
the  parent  society  by  Mrs.  Eliza  Foulston." 

Jan.  1903.  (No  day  given.)  "  The  Com- 
mittee report  the  receipt  of  a  new  boat  from  the 
parent  institution  for  Hendon  beach." 

Oct.  25th,  1905.  The  Committee  was  unani- 
mously in  favour  of  a  motor  boat  being  placed 
at  the  North  Dock,  and  instructed  the  honorary 
secretary  to  ask  the  parent  institution  to  place  a 
motor  boat  there  instead  of  the  row  boat. 


On  April  26th,  19 10,  the  Committee  having 
considered  a  letter  from  the  parent  institution, 
resolved  to  accept  the  offer  of  installing  a  motor 
in  the  North  Dock  boat,  but  with  regard  to  the 
withdrawal  of  the  South  Outlet  boat,  they  asked 
that  the  station  should  be  retained  till  experience 
of  the  motor  boat  had  been  gained. 

This  minute  finishes  with  the  appointment  of 
a  sub-committee  to  find  a  suitable  mooring  place 
for  the  motor  boat,  and  brings  us  up  to  date 
with  the  Life-boat  service.* 

A  few  words  are  necessary  with  regard  to  the 
Volunteer  Life  Brigade.  It  was  owing  to  the 
efforts  of  the  late  Capt.  Coulson  that  the  Brig- 
ade was  established  at  Sunderland  in  1879.  The 
Board  of  Trade  would  not  acknowledge  two 
Brigades  in  one  Borough,  that  is,  they  would 
not  accept  a  Brigade  for  Roker  and  another  for 
the  South  Side  of  the  river  ;  so  the  Sunderland 
Brigade  is  divided  into  two  sections,  known  as 
the  Roker  and  the  South  Pier  Divisions.  These 
Brigades    have    been    called    into    action    over 

*  At  the  time  of  writing-  Sunderland  has  three  Life-boats,  one 
stationed  at  Hendon  beach,  one  at  the  South  Outlet,  and  the 
third  at  Roker. 

244       LIFE   OF    HARRY  WATTS 

seventy  times,  and  have  landed,  by  means  of 
the  Rocket  apparatus,  292  persons."* 

The  Life-boat  and  the  Rocket  apparatus  form 
the  principal  means  adopted  for  saving  life  on 
the  coasts  of  the  United  Kingdom.  The 
Rocket  apparatus  is  the  exclusive  property  of 
the  Board  of  Trade. 

For  the  benefit  of  the  reader  who  is  not  fa- 
miliar with  these  two  life-saving  services,  it  may 
be  well  to  explain  that  the  Life-boat  service  is 
recruited  from  men  accustomed  to  the  sea,  be- 
cause they  save  the  lives  of  the  shipwrecked 
mariners  by  going  out  to  the  wrecked  ships  ; 
whereas  the  Volunteer  Life  Brigade  may  be, 
and  often  is,  composed  entirely  of  civilians — 
tradesmen  and  ordinary  workmen,  special  know- 
ledge of  the  sea  not  being  so  necessary  to  them, 
as  they  work  their  apparatus  entirely  from  the 
shore  and  do  not  need  to  go  on  the  sea. 

Coming  now  to  the  services  of  Mr  Watts  in 
connection  with  the  Life-boat  and  Life  Brigade, 
no  definite  records  are  available  giving  all  the 
particular  instances  in  which  he  was  a  willing 

*  From  an  unpublished  paper  by  Mr.  W.   J.  Oliver,  the   Hon. 
Secretary  of  the  Sunderland  Brigade. 


helper.  But  after  a  careful  study  of  the  local 
returns  of  wrecks  made  to  the  Royal  National 
Life-boat  Institution,  and  helped  by  various 
other  papers  and  sources  of  information,  it  is 
possible  to  give  a  short  general  outline  of  his 

Many  years  before  the  Volunteer  Life  Brigade 
was  organised,  and  when  the  helpers  were 
sailors,  coastguards,  pilots,  fishermen,  and  any 
others  who  cared  to  volunteer,  Mr.  Watts  was 
a  prominent  helper,  and  seldom  allowed  other 
duties  to  keep  him  from  the  scene  of  action. 
His  recollection  of  such  work  of  rescue  goes 
back  to  the  time  when  he  was  a  young  man  of 
twenty-two.  The  reader  must  remember  that 
most  of  these  incidents  have,  by  request,  been 
recalled  by  Mr.  Watts,  now  in  his  85th  year, 
and  it  is  not  to  be  expected  that  he  can  charge 
his  memory  with  the  exact  dates.  But  where  it 
has  been  possible  to  verify  them  this  has  been 

One  memorable  occasion  which  he  recalls 
with  great  interest  was  when  one  of  the  early 
Life-boats  was  launched  to  go  to  the  help  of  two 
vessels    behind    the   old    North    Pier.      When 

246       LIFE    OF    HARRY   WATTS 

opposite  the  bar  a  heavy  sea  broke  aboard  the 
boat  and  washed  Coxswain  Davidson  overboard. 
Henry,  who  was  at  the  second  oar,  sprang  aft, 
caught  him  and  held  him  till,  with  the  assistance 
of  some  of  the  crew,  he  was  got  on  board  again. 
The  oars  were  broken,  and  the  boat  thus  help- 
less, drifted  on  to  the  North  Glacis.  All  those 
in  the  boat  were  so  exhausted  and  numbed  by 
the  sleet  and  the  dreadful  cold,  that  they  had  to 
be  run  along  the  beach  to  restore  warmth  and 
animation.  The  crews  of  the  vessels  were 
rescued  by  the  North  Side  Life-boat. 

As  to  this  incident  I  find  in  the  minute  book 
of  the  Sunderland  Life-boat  Society  on  Oct. 
24th,  1882,  a  resolution  appointing  John  David- 
son Coxswain  of  No.  4  Life-boat. 

Here  is  an  extract  from  a  report  sent  to  the 
Parent  Society  by  the  local  secretary  on  Oct. 
24th,  1894  : — "  The  '  Jernaes,'  barque,  of  Nor- 
way, from  Falmouth  to  Shields,  in  ballast,  wind 
N.E.,  blinding  showers,  very  heavy  sea.  At 
twelve,  midday,  the  '  Jernaes  '  stranded  on  Hen- 
don  beach  and  became  a  total  wreck.  No  lives 
were  lost,  but  one  of  the  crew  died  after  landing. 
The  Life-boat  was  manned   and  attempted  to 


go  out  between  the  piers,  but  was  driven  by  the 
force  of  the  sea  against  the  roundhead  and  six 
oars  were  smashed.  She  returned  to  the  boat- 
house,  got  new  oars  and  tried  again,  but  failed, 
and  there  was  no  steam  tug  to  be  got."  Mr. 
Watts  was  one  of  the  crew  on  this  occasion. 

Once  a  ship,  loaded  with  pit  props,  ran  ashore 
behind  the  South  Pier  in  a  gale  of  wind,  the 
crew  being  saved  by  the  Life-boat.  The  agent 
for  the  ship  being  anxious  to  save  her  boat, 
which  he  said  was  very  valuable,  offered  "  a 
good  reward  "  to  any  one  who  would  save  it. 
11  Times  were  very  hard  in  Sunderland  then," 
said  Harry,  "  so  three  of  us,  Charley  Chisholm, 
Tom  Hedley,  and  myself  swam  off  to  the  ship 
in  the  presence  of  hundreds  of  people.  There 
was  no  other  way  to  get  to  her.  We  reached 
her  safely  after  a  big  struggle,  brought  the  boat 
ashore  all  right,  and  received  seven-and-sixpence 
each  for  our  services,  and  were  employed  to  dis- 
charge the  ship — a  very  difficult  task." 

On  consideration,  the  boat  does  not  appear 
to  have  been  of  such  great  value  after  all,  if  one 
is  to  judge  from  the  "  reward  "  paid  for  getting 
her  ashore. 

248       LIFE    OF    HARRY   WATTS 

Among  the  letters  preserved  by  Mr.  Watts 
is  one  from  Ralph  Thompson,  the  Coxswain  of 
the  Life-boat  "  Florence  Nightingale,"  refer- 
ring to  Henry's  assistance  in  saving  the  crew 
of  18  men  from  the  barque  "Julia  Ravenna," 
which  was  wrecked  on  the  South  Pier  end. 
There  is  also  a  letter  from  the  Board  of  Trade, 
dated  Jan.  28th,  1886,  thanking  him  "for  the 
services  rendered  to  the  Chief  Officer  Coast- 
guard at  the  wreck  of  the  schooner  '  Maggie.'  ' 

With  regard  to  the  "  Julia  Ravenna,"  Henry 
tells  how  when  the  men  had  been  brought 
ashore,  some  of  them  wanted  to  try  and  get 
back  to  the  ship  again  ;  but  as  the  Life  Brigade 
men  saw  that  she  would  very  soon  break  up, 
they  cut  the  connection  between  the  shore  and 
the  ship.  This  so  exasperated  one  of  the  crew 
that  he  rushed  at  Henry  and  kicked  him  in  the 
stomach,  injuring  him  so  seriously  that  he  bled 
from  the  nose  and  mouth,  and  was  very  ill  for 
some  time.  It  is  some  satisfaction  to  know  that 
the  brutal  rascal  who  did  this  got  a  severe  drub- 
bing from  the  spectators. 

On  Sunday,  Nov.  14th,  1875,  the  Italian 
barque  "  Yole  "  with  a  crew  of  14  and  a  North 

THE    SKA. 


Sea  pilot,  came  ashore  on  Hendon  beach  in  a 
heavy  sea,  a  strong  gale  blowing  from  the 
E.N.E.  The  Life-boat  was  launched  and  pro- 
ceeded to  the  vessel,  though,  as  the  report 
states,  "  With  all  the  power  of  the  crew's 
brawny  arms  the  advance  was  slow,"  and  just 
as  she  was  nearing  the  ship,  the  barque's  cable 
parted  and  she  drove  ashore.  The  boat,  unable 
to  reach  her,  let  go  her  own  anchor,  but  they 
could  not  keep  the  boat's  head  to  the  sea,  and 
finally  had  to  slip  the  cable  and  make  for  the 
shore,  the  boat  being  damaged. 

In  the  meantime  the  Life  Brigade  was  at 
work,  and  amongst  those  in  the  forefront  was 
Henry  Watts.  One  by  one,  with  the  utmost 
exertions,  the  crew  were  brought  ashore,  but 
when  about  half  of  them  had  been  landed  the 
life-line  broke.  Now  the  ship  was  being  bat- 
tered to  pieces  by  the  gale  and  the  rocks,  and 
might  part  asunder  at  any  moment.  So  what- 
ever had  to  be  done  must  be  done  without  a 
moment's  loss  of  time.  Then  Harry  Watts 
settled  the  difficulty  by  dashing  into  the  sea, 
catching  the  end  of  the  rope,  bringing  it  ashore 
and  fastening  it  up  with  the  shore  end,  and  the 

250       LIFE    OF    HARRY   WATTS 

work  of  rescue  was  resumed.  Only  just  in  time, 
too,  for  hardly  had  the  last  man  been  landed 
when  the  ship  went  to  pieces. 

And  so,  with  variations,  the  story  might  go 
on  and  on,  for  there  was  seldom  a  storm  on 
this  coast  in  those  days  without  a  wreck,  and 
seldom  a  wreck  without  Harry  Watts  being  there 
to  help  in  rescuing  the  unfortunate  seamen.  The 
brig  "Tagus,"  of  Aberdeen,  in  November,  1883; 
the  schooner  "  Mariner,"  of  London,  in  Decem- 
ber, 1878  ;  the  S.S.  "  Broomhill,"  of  Dundee,  in 
February,  1881  ;  the  "  Victoria,"  of  Sunderland, 
in  April,  1877;  the  barque  "Jernaes,"  in  Octo- 
ber, 1894;  the  S.S.  "Stephenson,"  of  London, 
in  December,  1881  ;  the  "  Rienzi,"  "  Gladys," 
"  Ottercaps,"  "J.  B.  Eminson,"  two  Italian 
barques,  a  three  -  masted  schooner,  the  brig 
"  Blucher  ;"  —  these,  and  many  other  wrecks 
Henry  assisted  at,  the  total  number  of  lives  he 
helped  to  save  by  means  of  the  Life-boats  and 
Rocket  apparatus  being  over  120 — a  worthy  re- 
cord surely. 



So  He  bringeth  them  unto  their  desired  haven. 

— Psalm  cvii.,  verse  30. 

\  I  7HEN  he  was  in  his  seventieth  year,  and 
V  V  had  served  the  River  Wear  Commis- 
sioners considerably  over  thirty  years,  Mr.  Watts 
retired.  The  constitution  of  the  River  Wear 
Commissioners  does  not  permit  them  to  pen- 
sion their  servants,  but  they  would  have  been 
quite  willing  to  pension  him  in  effect  by  finding 
him  a  nominal  position  had  he  so  desired  it. 
But  he  had  been  a  careful  and  good-living  man, 
and  he  expected  that  his  savings  would  be  suf- 
ficient to  keep  him  for  the  rest  of  his  life.  He 
invested  these  savings  in  house  property,  but 
the  investment  did  not  turn  out  so  well  as  ex- 
pected, and  in  the  course  of  a  few  years  he  be- 
gan to  be  in  rather  straitened  circumstances. 
The  fact  was  not  generally  known  ;  had  it  been, 
the   town  would  not  so  far  have  forgotten  his 

252       LIFE    OF    HARRY  WATTS 

services  as  to  allow  him  to  be  in  want  during 
his  old  age  ;  in  fact  it  became  known  after  Mr. 
Carnegie  had  pensioned  him  that  he  had  but 
forestalled  others  in  that  kindly  act. 

However,  whatever  his  circumstances,  Henry 
went  about  the  town  as  cheerful  and  pleasant  as 
ever,  and  the  writer  who  had  many  conversa- 
tions with  him  during  this  time,  never  once 
heard  him  complain. 

On  October  21st,  1909,  Mr.  Andrew  Carnegie, 
the  donor  of  the  three  Branch  Libraries  which 
Sunderland  possesses,  came  by  special  invitation 
to  open  the  last  of  the  three — the  Monkwear- 
mouth  Branch  Library. 

Before  he  came  to  the  town  Mr.  J.  G.  Addi- 
son, who  had  given  the  site  on  which  the  Monk- 
wearmouth  Branch  Library  is  built,  and  was 
therefore  to  take  part  in  the  opening  ceremony, 
wrote  to  Mr.  J.  A.  Charlton  Deas,  the  Public 
Librarian,  asking  for  Mr.  Watts's  record,  as  it 
had  occurred  to  him  (Mr.  Addison),  that  when 
Mr.  Carnegie  was  in  Sunderland  something 
might  be  done  for  Mr.  Watts  in  connection 
with  the  Hero  Fund  which  Mr.  Carnegie  had 

IN    HARBOUR  253 

Then  the  matter  was  mentioned  to  the  Mayor 
(Coun.  Arthur  F.  Young)  by  Mr.  Addison  and 
Aid.  J.  G.  Kirtley,  who  asked  his  Worship  if  he 
would  bring  the  matter  before  Mr.  Carnegie. 
This  he  readily  promised  to  do,  as  he  had 
known  Mr.  Watts  for  many  years  and  had  a 
very  great  respect  for  him. 

Mr.  Carnegie  having  arrived,  the  Mayor  and 
Mr.  Deas  conducted  him  over  the  Central 
Library  and  Museum.  Mr.  Watts  had  pre- 
sented his  medals  to  the  Museum  a  few  months 
previously,  and  when  they  came  to  the  case  in 
which  these  are  kept  they  were  pointed  out  to 
Mr.  Carnegie,  who  asked  "  What  did  the  man 
do  to  get  all  these  ?  " 

As  he  seemed  to  have  an  idea  that  the  medals 
were  war  trophies,  a  short  outline  of  Henry's 
work  and  character  was  given  to  him.  Looking 
at  Henry's  photograph  he  said,  "  A  fine  old 
man.  I'd  like  to  have  met  that  man  and  shaken 
him  by  the  hand.      How  old  was  he  ?  " 

"  He  is  about  84,"  was  the  reply,  "  and  it  is 
possible  to  shake  hands  with  him  yet." 

"  Oh  ! "  said  he,  "  I'd  give  something  to  have 
that  pleasure." 

254       LIFE    OF    HARRY  WATTS 

"You  shall  have  that  pleasure  this  evening, 
then,"  and  arrangements  were  at  once  made  to 
bring  Mr.  Carnegie  and  Mr.  Watts  together. 

As  they  turned  from  the  case  containing  the 
medals  Mr.  Carnegie  asked,  "  What  are  the  old 
man's  circumstances  ?  "  and  on  being  told  that 
he  was  not  very  well  off  he  at  once  said,  "  He 
shall  never  want  again  in  this  world  !  Ah,"  he 
continued,  "he  has  evidently  been  a  brave  man. 
It  is  fine  to  come  across  a  man  who  is  not  only 
a  physical  but  a  moral  hero.  If  ever  you  come 
across  any  of  these  heroes  of  the  Fund  who 
have  children  with  ability  which  requires  bring- 
ing out  by  higher  education,  I  wish  you  would 
report  it  to  the  officials  of  the  Hero  Fund  Trust. 
By  getting  hold  of  these  children  we  might  be 
raising  a  grand  crop  of  people  of  the  right  kind." 

After  the  ceremony  at  Monkwearmouth  in  the 
evening,  Mr.  Carnegie  was  presented  with  the 
Freedom  of  the  Borough,  in  the  Reception 
Room  at  the  Town  Hall,  and  it  was  while  wait- 
ing for  this  meeting  to  begin  that  Henry  Watts 
was  introduced  to  him.  They  talked  together 
for  a  long  time,  so  long  indeed  that  the  meeting 
was  kept  waiting  for  a  while. 

IN    HARBOUR  255 

During  his  speech,  which  followed  the  pre- 
sentation of  the  Freedom  of  the  Borough,  Mr. 
Carnegie,  referring  to  Henry  Watts,  said  that 
he  had  been  introduced  that  day  to  a  man 
who,  he  thought,  had  the  most  ideal  character 
of  any  man  living  on  the  face  of  the  earth. 
He  had  shaken  hands  with  a  man  who  had  saved 
thirty-six  lives.  "  Among  the  distinguished 
men  whose  names  the  Mayor  had  recited  they 
should  never  let  the  memory  of  that  Sunderland 
man  die.  Compared  with  his  acts  military  glory 
sank  into  nothing.  The  hero  who  killed  men 
was  the  hero  of  barbarism  ;  the  hero  of  civilisa- 
tion saved  the  lives  of  his  fellows." 

During  his  stay  in  Sunderland  Mr.  Carnegie 
was  the  guest  of  the  Mayor  (Mr.  Young),  and 
that  evening  after  dinner  Mr.  Carnegie  said  to 
the  Mayor,  "  Well,  now,  what  about  Mr.  Watts? 
What  do  you  think  about  £4.  per  month  ?  " 

The  Mayor  remarked  that  Mr.  Watts  would 
be  delighted. 

''Well,"  said  Mr.  Carnegie,  "We'll  make  it 
£5  a  month.  Bertram,"  he  said,  turning  to  his 
secretary,  "see  that  the  necessary  particulars 
are  sent  on  to  the  officers  of  the  Hero  Fund." 

256       LIFE    OF    HARRY    WATTS 

The  following  day  Mr.  Carnegie,  his  secre- 
tary, the  Mayor  and  Mr.  Deas  motored  over  to 
Newcastle,  and  while  going  round  that  city  the 
war  monument  in  the  Haymarket,  designed  by 
Mr.  T.  Eyre  Macklin,  the  sculptor,  was  pointed 
out  to  him. 

11  Yes,"  he  said,  "  it  is  a  fine  monument,  raised 
to  the  memory  of  a  lot  of  brave  fellows  who  lost 
their  lives  in  taking  life  ;  but  he  is  a  nobler  man 
who  risks  his  life  to  save  another's.  It  gave  me 
greater  pleasure  to  shake  hands  with  Harry 
Watts  than  it  would  do  to  shake  hands  with  a 
great  soldier.  One  of  the  things  which  will  live 
in  my  memory  in  connection  with  this  very 
pleasant  visit  to  Sunderland,  is  my  meeting  with 
that  fine  old  man." 

A  little  later  he  remarked,  "Well,  I  have  fixed 
Harry  up  all  right,  and  arranged  with  Bertram 
that  he  is  to  have  25/-  a  week  for  life,  and  if  his 
wife  survives  him  she  is  to  have  it  after  him. 
A  fine  old  man  :  the  bravest  man  I  have  ever 
met !" 

And  thus  was  Henry  Watts  freed  from  all 
financial  cares  and  enabled  to  enjoy  the  evening 
of  life  quietly. 

IN    HARBOUR  257 

One  of  the  most  lasting  impressions  made 
upon  the  mind  of  the  writer  when,  as  a  boy,  he 
entered  the  Royal  Navy  in  1865,  was  a  double 
line  of  old  battleships  moored  in  the  river  Med- 
way.  A  naval  pensioner  or  two  on  each  vessel 
served  to  keep  them  clean  and  in  order,  but 
otherwise  they  were  rarely  visited,  being  on  the 
"  Past  Active  Service  "  list.  But  to  him  it  was 
a  great  delight  to  board  one  of  them  when  op- 
portunity offered.  How  stately  they  looked  ; 
how  gracefully  they  sat  upon  the  water  ;  and 
what  memories  of  the  past  they  evoked — glori- 
ous memories  of  a  time  when  England  stood 
alone  against  the  world,  and  these  old  battle- 
ships upheld  her  honour  and  glory  !  And  how 
roomy  and  comfortable  they  were  compared 
with  the  modern  iron  man-traps  which  Science 
evolved  to  take  their  places  ! 

I  pity  the  man  who,  walking  the  decks  of  one 
of  these  "  Wooden  walls  of  old  England,"  could 
not  conjure  up  from  the  past  the  cocked-hatted 
Admirals  and  Captains  fearlessly  walking  the 
decks  'mid  smoke  of  powder  and  the  scream  of 
shot  and  shell  ;  the  jagged  shot-torn  sails ;  the 
smoking   guns   and   the   half-naked,   pig-tailed 

258       LIFE    OF    HARRY   WATTS 

Jacks,  with  deep,  hairy  breasts  and  tattooed 
arms,   hurrying  to  and  fro  serving  the  guns. 

Some  of  these  ships  were  with  Jervis  (after- 
wards Lord  St.  Vincent),  that  grim  old  Admiral 
who,  in  February,  1797,  engaged  and  defeated 
the  great  Spanish  Fleet  off  Cape  St.  Vincent  ; 
some  were  companions  of  the  "  Formidable  "  in 
her  long  list  of  victories  under  Lord  Rodney  ; 
Duncan  knew  some  of  them  and  Lord  Cochrane 
knew  others  ;  while  a  few  could  boast  of  the 
proud  distinction  of  having  helped  Nelson  at 
Trafalgar  ;  oh  !  but  they  were  mighty  warriors 
all  of  them,  and  each  had  a  brave  record. 

And  there  they  lie,  worn-out  leviathans  of 
the  past,  put  out  of  service  by  the  Law  of 
Progress,  which  is  eternal  and  respects  nothing. 
But  though  Science  may  despise  them,  and 
Youth  hurry  by  with  scarcely  a  passing  glance, 
yet  shall  they  live  in  the  memory  of  all  who 
love  their  country,  of  all  who  respect  honour- 
able service  and  duty  faithfully  done. 

In  writing  the  final  words  of  this  imperfect 
story  of  the  life  and  labours  of  Harry  Watts,  I 
feel  that  I  cannot  do  better  than  liken  him  to 
one  of  those  fine  old  ships.     Like  them  he  bears 



the  scars  of  a  long  and  honourable  service  ;  and 
though  now,  in  his  85th  year,  he  is,  like  them, 
laid  by  in  harbour  as  "  Past  Active  Service," 
there  is  still  that  about  him  which  commands 
our  respect,  still  that  dignity  of  bearing  which 
only  such  service  can  bring  ;  and  a  history  which 
may  well  inspire  the  younger  generation  to  em- 
ulate his  heroic  deeds. 

Old  Age  is  my  Guest — but  my  duty  I've  done, 

With  God's  help,  to  the  last! 
A?id  the  Future? — I've  lived  it,  and  face  it  again 

Colours  nailed  to  the  mast ! 
And  the  present? — Ah  me,  but  the  I?igle-nook's  warm, 

Let  me  dream  of  the  Past ! 



i. — While  at  Quebec,  in  1839,  a  fellow  apprentice, 
named  Richard  Nicholson,  fell  overboard,  and  Watts, 
though  then  a  mere  boy,  jumped  in  and  rescued  him. 

2. — At  Miramichi,  on  board  the  "Cowen,"  the  Cap- 
tain (J.  Luckley),  capsized  a  canoe  he  was  bringing  to 
the  ship  and  was  thrown  into  the  water.  Watts,  who 
was  waiting  for  him  at  the  gangway  of  the  ship,  immed- 
iately plunged  into  the  water,  taking  a  rope  with  him, 
and  so  saved  the  Captain. 

3. — While  coming  through  the  Pentland  Firth  on 
board  the  brig  "United  Kingdom,"  a  lad  named  Watson 
was  washed  overboard  in  a  heavy  sea.  Watts  sprang 
over  after  him  and  with  difficulty  managed  to  regain  the 
ship  with  him. 

4  &  5. — While  in  the  "  Protector,"  in  1845,  and  lying 
at  Woolwich,  a  barge  foundered  with  two  men  on  board, 
and  both  of  them  were  rescued  by  Watts. 

6  to  11. — In  1847,  while  lying  at  Rotterdam  in  a  ves- 
sel called  the  "  Express,"  the  boat  of  a  foreign  ship  was 
smashed  by  an  anchor  dropping  into  it,  throwing  the 
six  men  who  were  in  her  into  the  water.  Watts  jumped 
into  the  boat  belonging  to  his  own  ship  and  reached 
them  in  time  to  save  them  all. 

12. — In  1852  a  boy  named  Paul  was  drowning  outside 
the  South  Pier  when  Henry  jumped  in  and  rescued  him, 
after  great  exertions. 


13. — The  same  year  he  plunged  into  the  river  and 
saved  a  boy  named  Maughan,  who  had  fallen  from 
Smurthwaite's  Wharf. 

14. — A  young  woman,  while  a  strong  sea  was  run- 
ning, attempted  to  commit  suicide  from  the  shore  below 
the  pier.  Watts,  after  an  exhausting  struggle,  brought 
her  to  land. 

15. — Rescued  a  girl  who  had  fallen  into  the  canal  at 

16. — Rescued  William  Smith,  a  trimmer,  who  fell  into 
the  dock  while  going  on  board  a  vessel. 

17. — In  1854  he  saved  a  boy  at  Wapping  Dock,  and 
as  a  result  had  a  serious  illness  lasting  three  months, 
due  to  swallowing  some  of  the  poisonous  water. 

18  &  19. — In  very  severe  weather  he  jumped  over- 
board to  save  two  boys  at  the  South  Outlet,  and  not- 
withstanding that  he  took  the  cramp,  he  brought  them 
to  shore. 

20  &  21. — In  1863  a  girl  and  a  boy  fell  from  the  quay 
near  Panns  Ferry  into  the  river.  Watts,  who  was  near 
at  the  time,  jumped  overboard,  swam  to  them  and  saved 

22. — In  1866  a  boy  named  Smith  fell  from  a  dredger 
at  No.  2  Graving  Dock,  and  was  rescued  by  Watts. 

23. — Sept.,  1866.  A  boy  named  Hall  fell  overboard 
near  the  River  Wear  Commissioners'  Quay.  Watts 
jumped  from  the  breakwater  and  saved  him. 

24. — A  boy  fell  from  the  Custom  House  Quay  and 
was  brought  ashore  by  Watts. 

25. — In    1868  a  boy  named  John  Fox,  living  in   Mill 


Street,  fell  from  a  boat  at  the  Mark  Quay.  Watts 
swam  to  him  and,  with  great  difficulty,  rescued  him. 

26. — July,  1869.  James  Watt,  a  shipwright,  fell  into 
the  South  Dock  basin.  Watts  swam  to  the  man  and 
landed  him  in  safety. 

27. — June,  1870.  A  boat  containing  a  pleasure  party 
of  eight  children  and  three  adults  capsized  in  the  river. 
Watts  saved  one  of  the  party,  and  was  in  fact  instru- 
mental in  saving  them  all. 

28. — Same  day  he  jumped  into  the  river  and  rescued 
a  man  named  Robert  Wilson. 

29. — The  same  year  he  rescued  a  boy  who  had  fallen 
into  the  river  near  the  Tide  Gauge  Jetty. 

30. — August,  1875.  Jumped  into  the  River  Wear  to 
the  rescue  of  a  boy  named  Edward  Bolton,  being  him- 
self nearly  drowned,  owing  to  the  boy  clutching  him 
round  the  legs. 

31. — September,  1876.  Rescued  a  boy  named  James 
Taylor,  who  had  fallen  into  the  river  near  Mark  Quay. 

32. — November,  1876.  Saved  another  boy  named 
Henry  Dobson,  who  had  fallen  into  the  river,  swimming 
with  him  until  a  boat  came  to  the  rescue. 

33. — May,  1877.  A  man  named  John  Lonsdale  was 
dragged  overboard  from  a  keel,  where  he  and  Watts 
were  working,  by  a  heavy  chain  with  which  he  had  be- 
come entangled.  Watts  dived  over  after  him,  released 
him  from  the  chain,  and  brought  him  aboard  the  keel. 

34. — May,  1881.  Jumped  into  the  Graving  Dock, 
though  encumbered  with  his  diving  dress,  and  rescued 
a  lad  named  Jones,  who  had  fallen  in  and  was  drowning. 


35. — August,  1884.  A  boy  named  James  Riseborough 
had  fallen  into  the  outer  basin,  and  a  big  dog  had  been 
sent  in  to  the  lad's  help,  but  instead  of  helping  he  was 
actually  drowning  the  boy.  Watts  came  up,  saw  what 
was  happening,  and  jumped  in  and  brought  the  lad  to 

36. — May,  1892.  A  boy  named  Fatherley  fell  into  the 
South  Dock.  Henry  and  his  wife  were,  at  the  time, 
walking  along  to  their  home,  then  on  the  South  Dock. 
Hearing  the  cries  Henry  at  once  turned  back,  his  wife 
begging  him  not  to  go.  (He  was  then  66  years  old.) 
However,  she  reached  the  dock  side  first,  and  when  she 
saw  the  lad  struggling  in  the  water  she  cried  out,  "  Be 
quick,  Harry  !  Be  quick  !"  Henry  jumped  in,  swam  to 
the  boy,  brought  him  to  the  dock  side  and  held  him 
there  till  a  rope  was  lowered.  This  he  fastened  round 
the  boy's  waist  and  he  was  hauled  up,  the  same  process 
being  repeated  with  Henry. 

A    SAD    LIST. 

The  following  is  a  list  of  Mr.  Watts's  relatives  who 
were  drowned,  and  it  may  in  some  measure  explain  his 
constant  desire  to  save  others  : — 

When  Henry  was  a  boy  his  brother  was  drowned  in 
the  Bristol  Channel. 

Next,  two  of  his  nephews,  William  and  Henry  Sloan, 
were  drowned  from  a  steam-boat  in  the  North  Sea. 


A  cousin,  Captain  Crozier,  took  his  daughter  away 
for  the  good  of  her  health,  and  both  were  drowned 
while  away. 

The  mother  of  his  second  wife,  while  at  the  Fish 
Market  with  her  husband,  was  suddenly  missed  and  was 
never  seen  again  ;  but  her  market  basket  was  picked  up 
in  the  river  by  the  ferryboat-man. 

Apart  from  the  above  it  may  also  be  mentioned  that 
a  niece  of  his  had  two  children  killed  in  the  Victoria 
Hall  Disaster. 


Mr.  Watts  some  time  ago  presented  his  medals  and 
certificates,  which  have  been  awarded  him  for  life- 
saving,  to  the  Sunderland  Corporation.  The  medals 
are  to  be  seen  in  the  Sunderland  Museum,  in  the  room 
adjoining  the  Art  Gallery,  and  the  certificates  are  ex- 
hibited in  the  Reading  Room  of  the  Hendon  Branch 
Library,  Villette  Road,  in  the  district  in  which  Mr. 
Watts  resides.     The  following  are  the  medals  : — 

(1). — Bronze  Medal  and  Honorary  Clasp  of  the  Royal 
Humane  Society.  Inscription  :  "  Henry  Watts,  21st 
August,  1868.      (Duplicate).     Clasp  :   "  8th  May,  1892." 

(2). — Gold  and  Bronze  Medal.  Inscription  :  "Pre- 
sented to  Mr.  Henry  Watts  for  his  courage  and  humanity 


in  saving  the  lives  of  25  persons  from  drowning.  1868." 
On  the  other  side  :  "  Diamond  Swimming  Club  and 
Humane  Society." 

(3). — Gold  Medal.  Inscription  :  "  Presented  to  Mr. 
Henry  Watts  by  Mr.  Richardson  for  searching  the 
River  Wear  and  recovering  the  body  of  his  grandson. 
1875."  On  the  other  side  :  "  Mr.  Henry  Watts,  diver 
at  the  recent  Tay  Bridge  Disaster,  has  saved  the  lives 
of  35  persons  from  drowning,  besides  rendering  valuable 
Life-boat  and  Rocket-line  services.     4th  August,  1884." 

(4). — Silver  Medal.  Inscription  :  "Presented  to  Mr. 
Henry  Watts  by  the  Sailors  of  the  East  End  of  Sunder- 
land in  appreciation  of  his  many  kind  services  to  them. 
April,  1877."  On  the  other  side  :  "  One  of  the  original 
medals  taken  from  the  Bazaar,  James  Williams  Street, 
and  found  in  the  ashpit  at  Southwick.  5th  August, 

(5). — Silver  Medal.     Duplicate  of  No.  4. 

(6).— Gold  Medal.  "  Presented  to  Mr.  Harry  Watts 
by  the  United  Temperance  Crusaders  for  his  ready 
courage  in  saving  33  persons  from  drowning.  Septem- 
ber 4th,  1878."     (The  original  medal  was  given  in  1875.) 

(7). — Silver  Star  Medal.  Inscription  :  "  Presented  to 
Mr.  Henry  Watts  as  a  mark  of  approbation  for  saving 
many  lives  from  drowning.      1878.      G.H.R." 

(8). — Bronze  Medal.  Inscription  on  rim  :  u  Henry 
Watts  for  saving  life  from  drowning  on  various  occa- 
sions." Also  inscribed  :  "  Awarded  by  the  Board  of 
Trade  for  gallantry  in  saving  life.     V.R." 



(i). — Parchment  Certificate  from  the  Royal  Humane 
Society,  dated  17th  October,  1866.  .  .  Awarded  for 
saving  the  life  of  William  Hall. 

(2). — Certificate  from  the  Diamond  Swimming  Club 
and  Humane  Society,  dated  September  22nd,  1868. 
Awarded  "for  saving  the  life  of  a  boy  in  the  River 
Wear,  he  having  previously  saved  24  lives." 

(3). — Honorary  Testimonial  of  the  Royal  Humane 
Society,  dated  the  17th  August,  1869.  Awarded  for 
saving  the  life  of  James  Watt,  July  21st,  1869. 

(4).  —Vellum  Certificate  of  the  Royal  Humane  Society, 
dated  21st  September,  1875.  Awarded  for  saving  the 
life  of  Edward  Bolton  on  the  18th  August,  1875. 

(5). — Illuminated  Address,  presented  with  the  dupli- 
cate medals  on  December  3rd,  1878. 

(6). — Certificate  presented  with  the  Bronze  Clasp  of 
the  Royal  Humane  Society  on  June  15th,  1892,  "for 
having  saved  life  from  drowning." 


A  Daring  feat 
Addison,  Mr.  J.  G.    ... 
Admiral  Jervis 
"  Adolphus,"  wreck  of 
A  False  Admirer 
After  Thirty  Years    ... 
Albert  Medal  Proposed 

A  Plucky  Act 

Apprenticed  to  the  Sea 
Apprentices  boarded  out 
A  Strange  Scene 
Atkinson's,  Mr.,  Diary 

Back  to  the  Sea 
Bailey,  Jim,  episode 
Baling-  out  the  room 
Ballast  Hills    ... 
Ballast,  disposal  of 
Do.     Town  built  on 













96>  97 

"Balmoral  Castle"  wrecked  62 
Batavian  ship  "  Blucher  "   ...   89 
Bible  presented 
Binks,  Mrs.      .. 

Birth,  date  of 

Blown  up  when  diving 


Blood  poisoning 

Board  of  Trade  medal 

Bolton,  Ed.  rescued..      107,  129 

Boy    saved,    Commissioners 

...  31 

*3>  35 
...  87 


Boy  and  girl  saved   ... 
Boys,  two  rescued    ... 
Boys,  Wm.,  Coxswain 
Booth,  Captain 
Branfoot,  Mr.  W.  J. 
Branch  Libraries 
Bullick,  Mr.  George... 


•  55 

Casters  and  Keelmen 

"  Castlereagh,"  The 

Certificate,  R.H.S. 

Do.        of  discharge 

Cholera  in  London    ... 

Cochrane,  Lord 

Commissioners,  Town 

Condition  of  Streets 


Do.         facts  of  his 

Do.         A  test  of 

Do.         A,  in  the  park.. 

Cook,  Captain  Thos. 

Coutts,  Miss  Burdett 

"  Cowen,"  The 

Crab,  attacked  by 

Crass,  Mr.,  draper     .. 

Crawford,  Jack  ...       14, 






■  72 

,  62 




Dalton  Waterworks...         ...189 

Do.    Shaft  ...         ..  192 

Davidson,  Coxswain  ...246 

Deas,  Mr.  Charlton         252,  253 
Death  of  Henry's  father     ...  48 
Devil  fish,  fight  with  ...102 

Diamond  Swimming  Club     122, 
123,  126 
Diving,  facts  about    ..  -177 

Do.     dangers  of  ...  ...182 

Diver,  begins  as        ...  ...  62 

Diving  Bell  Incident  ...  81 

Divers,  rate  of  pay  ot  ...187 

Diving  Bell  first  used  ..  ior 

Dodds,  Mr.  C.  H.,    95,  163,  170 
Dog,  saving  his  .  •••59 

Donaldson,  Jimmy,  story  of.. .24 
Dunning  Street  ...         ...  25 

Campbell,  Mr.  J.  G.  123,  128,  156 
Carnegie,  Mr.  Andrew,  252,  253 

Early  days 
Early  marriage 
Education,  lack  of 



Entangled  when  diving  108,  109 
"  Elizabeth  Jane  "  ashore 
Epoch-making-  Event,  An 
"  Erato,"  of  Hamburg 
Ettrick,  Squire 
"  Express,"  The 

.  66 


•  55 

.  81 

•  46 

•  48 
>  54 







Glenny,  Mr.  Henry  ...  ...206 

Gold  medal  presented     128,  129 
Gold  watch  presented  . . .  131 

Greathead,  Mr.  Henry 

227,  229,  230 
Grey,  Mattie  and  Jeanie  57 

Hamburg,  A  passage  to      ...  86 
Hanson,  Mr.  Thomas  ...   72 

Harry  is  pensioned  ...  .-256 

Harry's  most  dangerous  task  208 
Havelock-Allan,  Sir  Henry...  157 
Heard,  Captain,  R.N.,  126,  240 
Henry's  optimism      ...  . ..   75 

Henry's  humour         ...  ...   88 

Herrington  Street  Chapel  ...   75 
Hero  Fund      ...          ...      252,254 

Hetton  Drops,  escape  at 
Hodgson,  Mr.  Joseph  ...  88 

Home  of  the  Watts  ...  29 

Horse,  valuable,  rescued    ...216 

Facing  death  ... 

Faith,  cured  by 

Father,  last  good-bye  to 

Final  words     ... 

First  acknowledgment 

First  life  saved 

First  wife         ...  ...         52 

Finney,  Mr.  Joseph  ...     202, 
Flag  Lane  P.M.  Chapel      ... 
Food,  price  of,  1850-60 
"Florence  Nightingale" 

230,  239, 
Foulston,  Mrs.  Eliza 
French,  Mr.  Hartley 

Gage,  Captain 
Gallant  rescue,  A 

Galley's  Gill 

Garrison  Pottery,  The 
Gasworks,  beginning  of 

Improvement  Act,  1826 


indentures       ...          ...  30-45 

Incidents  in  religious  life  ...  78 

Interlude,  An  ...         ...  ...  83 

"  In  Harbour  " 


Jammed  under  a  ship  ...116 

James  Williams  St.  C.L.C....143 

"James,"  The  ...          ...  49 

"  Jernaes "  wrecked  ...246 

"John  Murray"  wrecked  53,  61 
"John  Muller,"  The...         ...  57 

Journal,  beginning  of  ■••8,9 

"  Julia  Ravenna  "  wrecked,  248 

Kayll,  Aid 

Keelmen  and  Casters 
Keelmen  in  arms 
Kelloe  Winning  Pit  ... 
King's  Entry  ... 
Kindly  teachers 
Kirtley,  Aid.  J.  G.     ... 


•  17 

•  25 

•  52 

•  3i 

Laing  Warehouse  opened  ...  87 
Lamb,  Mr.  George  ...         ...  61 

Lamb,  Mr.  Friend     ...  .213 

"  Lena,"  The  brig  ...  33,  46 
Letters  of  appreciation  202-206 
Life-boat  services     ...      224-250 

Life-boats,   "  An  Appeal 
Littleboy,  Mr.,  diver 
Lonsdale,  Mr.  J.,  rescued 
Luckley,  Captain,  rescued 
Lukin,  Mr.  Lionel 

"  Maggie,"  Wreck  of 
Mainsforth  Ter.  Chapel 
Marriage  Customs    ... 

Do.       Henry's  second 
Maryport,  an  escape  at 
Mather,  Capt.  Alex... 
11  Martha,"  The  brig 
Mathew,  Father 











62,  92 


Maughan,  boy  named,  saved  58 

Meat  money 
Medals  stolen... 

Do.     duplicates  given 
Millfield,  incident  at... 

36>  4' 


Money  recovered      ...     112,  113 
Do.    for  services,  refused    170 

Monkey's  Yard  93 

Do.         property  deeds  93 
Motor  boat,  North  Dock    ...242 

Narrow  Escapes        ...      117-218 

Nelson,  Lord 258 

Newspaper  reference,  First  103 
Newbottle  Pit  ...207 

Nicholson  saved  ...  47 

Do.       Coun.  J 130 

North  Dock  opened 17 

Novel  use  for  a  diver,  A     ...172 

Old  Market,  The       14 

Oliver,  Mr.  W.  J.        231 

Open-air  Festivities  ...         ...   21 

"  Past  Active  Service  "  257 

Paupers  in  Sunderland  ...  19 
Paul,  boy  named,  rescued  ...  57 
Payment  of  crews     ...         •••99 

Pentland  Firth  49 

Pleasure  party  rescued  213 

Poisoned  by  Thames  water       4 
Poisoned  air,  Working  in     .175 
Poor  cess         ...          ...          ...   19 

Poor,  condition  of     ...  ...    18 

Population  of  Sunderland  in 

1821 13 

Port  Seaham  ...  ...         ...    14 

Potts,  Mr.  W.  204 

Poverty  of  the  workers  ...  21 
"  Princess  Alice"  sunk  ...147 
Prehistoric  Canoe     ...  .222 

Presentation  Bronze  medal...  124 
Do.         Gold  medal     ...124 

"Protector,"  The     50 

Provisions,  Price  of,  in  1820  24 
Public  indifference 63 

I,  2 

33 »  46,  49 
...  25 

Queen  Street  ... 

Recognition    ...          ...         ...120 

Rennison,  Mr.  G.  H.  ..  149 

Retirement      ...  ...  ...251 

"Rewards" 233 

R.H.S.  Certificate 

Richardson,  Mr. 
River  Thames 

Do.    Wear  Commissioners 

61,  62,  92,  251 

Do.    Wear  Improvements...  98 
Robe,  Mr.  John         ...          ..123 

Robinson,  Mr.  W.     ...         ...123 

Robson,  Mr.  S.  R.     ...     152,  157 

Rodney,  Lord  ...         ...258 

Rotterdam  ...  55,  56 
Royal  N.L.I,  established  ...230 
Ruddick,  Mr.  J.  R 200 

Sanderson,  Mr.  Thomas 
Sailors'  Tribute,  A    ... 
Scoffer  answered,  A 
Schooner  "Susan"... 
Seaham  Harbour 
Seamen  and  drink     ... 

Do.,     six,  saved    ... 
Second  wife,  Death  of 
Shipwrights'  Wages,  1820 
Ships,  Long  detention  of 
Shipwrecked  three  times 
Shore  life  ended 
Singing  ninnies 
Silver  Street    ...  ...21,52 

Sierra  Leone    .. 
Silver  medal  presented 
Smurthwaite's  Wharf 
Snowball,  Mr.,  solicitor 
South  Pier,  Old 
South  Dock     ... 
Straitened  Circumstances 
Streets,  Condition  of...         15, 
Struggle  for  existence,       21, 
Stocks  used    ... 

Stafford,  Mr 

Starts  housekeeping  .. 
Sunderland  when  Watts  was 

born    .. 
Sunderland  in  1819 










Do.  Parish  Paupers,  20 
Do.        V.  Life  Brigade 

23i»  243 
Do.  Life-boat  fund  ...231 
Do.  First  Life-boat... 237 
Do.        Branch  R.N.L.I. 

239,  242 


Sunderland  River  &  Port    ...  95 
Sunderland  Daily  Echo  Lead- 
ing- articles...         ...     132,  145 

Sunday  School  incident        ...   30 
Suicide,  would-be,  rescued...  59 
"Susannah,"  The  brig-  59 

Storey,  Mr.  Samuel  ...     135,  136 
Sutherland,  Mr.  J.  W.  ...206 

Stafford  Street  Mission  ...  72 
"Stormy  Petrel,"  The  ...  88 
Swimming  to  a  Ship  •••247 

Tay  Bridge  Disaster  •••lS9 

Temperance  cause    ...  ...  76 

Test  of  religion  ...  80 

Teetotal  helmet,  A 87 

Terrible  possibility,  A  ...196 

Theft  of  medals,  thief  caught 

Three  months'  illness  ...     4 

Thompson,  Mr.,  draper      ...  61 
Do.         Sarah  Ann        ...  93 
Do.         Mr.  W.,  Mayor    127 
Thompson,  Ralph,  Coxswain  248 
"  Tommy  the  Bellman  "      ...   23 

11  United  Kingdom,"  The    ...  49 
United     Temperance    Crus- 
aders ...         ...     129,  148 

Victoria  Hall  Disaster         ...221 

Wake,  Mr.  Morgan 237 

War  Monument,  Newcastle,  256 
Wapping  Dock,  Rescue  at  2,  61 
Waterworks,  Beginning  ot  ..  14 
Wading  across  the  river     ...    17 

Watts  family,  The    27 

Watts  as  a  diver        ...  .106 

Watts,  Mr.  Tom        ...         ...219 

Watt,  James,  rescued  ..126 

Watson,  Mr.  R.  H 148 

Watson,  George,  saved      ...  49 
Wardle,  Captain  George    ...  62 
Wallace,  Captain,  murdered  50 
Wages  of  seamen,  1826       ...  47 
Do.     as  apprentice,         36,  41 
Ward,  Captain  •••59 

Wilson,  Mr.  D.  ...  ...171 

William  Watts  drowned  ...  27 
Wilson,  Robert,  rescued  ...214 
"  Wooden  Walls,"  England's 

Woolwich,  men  rescued  at...  50 
Work  at  a  weaving  factory  33 
Wouldhave,  Mr.  W.,  226,  228,  229 
Wreck  of  the  "Richard"...  28 
Wright,   Mr.  D 104 

"  Yole,"  barque,  wrecked  ...248 
Young,  Mr.  James    ...  ..  204 

Young,  Mr.  A.  F.  (Mayor)... 253